Hiking with children *guest article*

Autumn is the most beautiful season for a hike with children through the forest or in the mountains. It gets chilly outside, the air is clear & fresh and the leaves are coloured in the most beautiful shades of red. In this article, Alexandra - our guest author of the travel blog Levartworld.de - reveals her best tips to ensure that hiking with children becomes a success. 
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We are now real experts when it comes to hiking with children. Our great globetrotter (13) has already hiked some of the most beautiful hiking trails around the world. And the little travellers' girl has also got around well with her two years. Now we live in Norway and nature is right on our doorstep.

Choose a suitable hiking route

Are you planning your first hike with children? Then there are a few things to consider when choosing a hiking trail. For example, if you have never been on a mountain hike before, you should not climb a two-thousand-metre peak with a child in a carrier. Choose a route that is feasible for you even with heavy luggage.

However, the route may be somewhat demanding. There is nothing more boring for children than a walk on forest paths and access roads.  Narrow and winding hiking trails through the forest, and paths over rough and smooth, provide the necessary variety. 

Children also love hiking trails along streams and rivers and enjoy walking over bridges and wooden planks. And if you pass a playground or a hut on the way, all the better: Kaiserschmarrn (a typical austrian dish, kind of like a fluffy pancake) is a reliable way to restore the little ones' spirits. To avoid boredom, the hiking route should be diverse and exciting.

There are also a few things to consider when it comes to the length of the route. Do your children already walk themselves? Then choose a route that is not too long. With enough breaks for playing, a 5-year-old can easily hike 10 kilometres a day, for example.

Hiking on adventure trails and hiking paths for children

In many regions in Germany, Austria and Switzerland there are countless adventure trails and children's hiking trails. Play and learning stations have been set up along these special paths to provide variety during the hike. Children love adventure trails very much and while the little ones play and explore, the parents can enjoy the landscape. 

We have already been able to get to know many such hiking trails for children. In Ticino, for example, there are huge marble runways on the BoBosco path, in the Käfertal valley in Austria, a ferry and Kneipp facility ensure fun hiking, and on the fairy tale path Bischofswiesen in the Berchtesgadener Land region you can discover fairy tales by means of elaborately carved wooden figures.

No path without destination!

The saying "the journey is the reward" doesn't work so well with the little ones. Children need something tangible in front of their eyes so that they know when the hike is over and can be proud of themselves when they have walked all the way themselves, for example. Every hike should lead to a destination: whether it's a hut, an ice-cream parlour, a beautiful bathing lake or a waterfall.

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Hiking games to prevent boredom

When boredom arises while hiking, small games help to keep the motivation up. Our little girl loves it when we "build tunnels" for her. One of us runs a few metres ahead and stands up on the hiking trail with his legs apart. While the toddler walks through the tunnel, the second adult is already building another tunnel further ahead. You cannot believe how far we have already hiked thanks to this game.

And then there are the classic games like "I see something you don't", "Who sees the next one first... (hiker, mushroom, beetle)?, "Who sees something first... (red, green)"? 

For older children I can recommend "Target throwing". This is an attempt to hit a target on the hiking trail with a small stone or stick. Who is the closest? They can also use an old plastic bag and gloves or wooden grill tongs and ask them to collect the plastic rubbish along the way. It's hard to believe, but this is also a lot of fun for many children and they do something good for the environment at the same time.

The trail is clean, but the little ones still want to collect something? Then here comes my secret tip! Before the hike, grab an empty egg carton and stick little pictures of a pinecone, pine greenery, flower, acorn, chestnut, moss, stone and other things that you will find on your hike on the lid above each compartment. The children usually have a lot of fun filling the egg carton with the findings from the forest while hiking. Who gets their carton completely full?

What also goes down very well with us is the storytelling. One of us starts with the nonsense story, and when he doesn't know what to do, the other jumps in and continues the story. This works wonderfully well with older children and very funny stories are created. 

Children always need something to do and want to be kept busy and entertained. So the walking time flies by. 

Equipment and clothing when hiking with children

If you go hiking with a baby or toddler, you need a special stretcher or harness, weather-adapted clothing and good shoes, such as the great allrounders from Affenzahn.

If you're thinking about hiking boots, you're bound to have chunky, heavy and hiking boots with a high shaft in mind. In outdoor shops we were often advised to wear such shoes. Surefootedness , ankle protection and a good tread pattern are what they should have, we were told. But that is absolute nonsense. With such high and heavy hiking boots you walk like on stilts. After my Achilles tendon started to squeak like an un-oiled hinge (honestly...it is possible) during our first hike through Sweden and I twisted it several times, I switched to barefoot shoes. That was already 10 years ago and meanwhile our whole family wears barefoot shoes, no matter if we go hiking, to school or to the kindergarten. It is almost impossible to twist your ankle with barefoot shoes. In addition, you can feel the ground you are walking on much better, which has a positive effect on your whole posture.

What should also not be missing on a hike are enough food and drinks, a bag for your full nappies and rubbish you may find along the way. Don't forget bandages and change of clothes for the little ones. There are also some things to consider when it comes to the right clothing. Is the sun shining? Then pack the sun cream. The sun's rays in the mountains are often underestimated. 

Rainwear should not be missing in rainy weather. Also remember that temperatures in the mountains are often a few degrees cooler. Babies and toddlers who are still being carried a lot do not move much and must be packed even warmer in autumn. We swear by merino wool first, fleece second and windproof softshell one-piece or hardshell in the rain as a third layer of clothing for toddlers. If the temperature drops below 13 degrees, a beanie and gloves will keep your head and hands warm.

You want to find out more about Alexandra?

If you liked the article and you want to read, learn and experience more about Alexandra, take a look at her beautiful Travel Blog or her social media channels, where she lets her readers and followers participate in her life. Her everyday life with baby and teenager and her life in Norway are as much a part of her content as her wonderful travels. Levartworld is one of the most successful family and travel blogs in Germany and a source of inspiration for wonderful places and a colourful, cheerful life.

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