Summers in the Midwest are a great time to get out and enjoy nature. Hiking with kids is wonderful exercise and a fun family activity. Just be sure to follow some basic safety tips to make sure everyone has a good and safe time.
Planning the hike
Hiking is a fun way to explore new areas. You can start by taking a few minutes to prepare so everyone has a good time.
- Plan hikes that are not too strenuous. Hikes that are too long or have too much elevation change can quickly turn from fun into an exhausting nightmare. Know your limits and those of your children.
- Check the weather forecast before heading out.
- Try to plan hikes that include fun features like a lake, stream, waterfall, etc.
- Plan for frequent stops along the way for water and snacks.
- Bring a field guide with you to talk about different plants and animals you may encounter.
Learn a lesson from scouts and be prepared for your hike.
- Everyone needs to wear socks and good shoes — no flip flops or sandals. Bring extra socks, too, in case feet get wet.
- Pack water and trail snacks
- Give everyone on the hike a whistle. It’s a good idea to attach the whistle to a belt loop or some other part of clothing.
- Everyone should apply sunscreen (without combined insect repellant) and DEET insect repellent (10 to 30 percent DEET lasts for two to five hours, respectively). Do not use DEET on children under 2 months of age.
- Wear a hat to protect from sun and rain and bring or wear a jacket (even if it’s warm when you start out).
- A flashlight can come in handy even if you plan for the hike to end before dark.
- Bring large plastic garbage bags, which can be used for trash or as rain ponchos.
Before you start out on your hike, talk to your children about some basic hiking safety tips.
- If your child becomes separated from the group, tell him or her to stay where they are. If the child moves around trying to find his/her family, search efforts may miss the child in areas which have been “cleared.”
- Also remind a lost child to stay in an open area, as long as it is not raining or very windy, so they can be easily seen.
- That whistle is important when someone is lost. Blow it every few minutes until you are reunited with your group. Just don’t blow the whistle for fun when you are not lost; it can confuse other hikers who will think there is a lost hiker.
- Stay with your hiking group — give everyone a hiking buddy.
- Do not drink from rivers or streams without first treating the water.
During and after the hike
While on your hike, be sure to have fun and respect nature.
- Stay on marked hiking trails.
- Leave no trace — make sure to take all garbage from your hike with you.
- After the hike, check for ticks (especially ears, belly button, groin, armpits, hairline, waist, and neck).
Showering within two hours of returning from your hike can help to wash away unattached ticks.
Take the next step:
- Learn what parents need to know about poison ivy, oak and sumac.
- Check out insect repellent tips for parents.
- Learn more about U-M pediatricians at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
- Check out other blog posts for parents from pediatricians at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Lindsey Loew, MD, was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted at 3 months of age. She was raised in Littleton, Colorado, and attended Colorado State University. She relocated to San Diego for a few years after graduation and worked for a cardiologist. She then moved to Chicago to attend medical school prior to moving further east for her pediatric training at the University of Michigan. She enjoys all that Ann Arbor has to offer — most of all, live music at the Ark, summer festivals, kayaking, hiking, and shopping at the outdoor farmer’s market. She sees patients at the Briarwood Center for Women, Children and Young Adults.
Camp Little Victors is the virtual summer camp program from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Each week, for six weeks, participants receive an email full of ideas and activities to help keep families busy, happy and healthy all summer long. Learn more and sign up.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.