Bushwalking with childrenBushwalking with your children can bring a whole new level of enjoyment to your experience, but you need to be prepared, and patient.
Include the kids when you are planning your walk, even if they are young or inexperienced. If they want to carry a pack talk about what they might like to take, and what might be best left at home. Remember, you could end up carrying it and them!
Enthusiasm is infectious, so when you are thinking about destinations make sure it’s one which you are genuinely interested in, but also one that will suit their ability and even their height. What will they see?
If you have any concerns or health issues, consult your doctor as part of your planning. As with all walks, let someone reliable know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Choosing the length
As a rough guide, pre-schoolers enjoy short walks of around 750 metres. At age five to seven, they could be ready for a one to three kilometre walk. Take into account your child’s fitness and level of interest in bushwalking and even their sleeping patterns.
What to take
Kids’ packs should small and light. You should leave room inside your own pack for it as they may soon tire of their burden!
It is really important to take more than enough water (adults need around 2 litres a day), plenty of snacks, sun protection, insect repellent, wipes and anti-bacterial gel. Include personal medications and a first aid kit, and seek personalised advice from your pharmacist or doctor if you are unsure of what to take.
Good planning means space saving. Consider taking a water bladder instead of water bottles and leaving bulky jumpers at home in favour of layered clothing. Thin but weatherproof jackets are definitely worth including!
A camera or smartphone is a must to capture the moments.
A golden rule of bushwalking is to always walk at the pace of the slowest member of your party, or let them lead and set the pace. Allow time for little ones to explore and be prepared for lots of stops.
Break the walk into stages – the younger the children the shorter the stages – with a reward and rest when they reach a milestone.
If they are more experienced and want to go on ahead, teach them to stay in earshot and to stop at designated landmarks, ie forks in the trail and creek crossings. Create a family whistle or call and ask them to use it regularly.
Insist that everyone stay within earshot at all times. Teach them to be aware of their surroundings and the animals and plants that inhabit them.
Talk about what they enjoyed, what they found challenging and what they might like to change.
More general information on planning a walk here.