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Believe it or not, kids as young as 3 years old can enjoy a good day hike. New Zealand offers some of the most stunning hiking grounds in the world and it would be a shame to miss out on them. If you’re planning a family adventure with young kids, consider hiking as one of the activities you can do together. The key to really enjoy it is to be well-prepared for anything.
Here are some tips to get your kids ready for a walk:
• Choose a destination that can be fun for everyone – There are many magnificent day walks you can do in New Zealand that are suitable for any level. The volcanic island of Rangitoto is only an a 20-minute boat ride away from Auckland and within an hour’s hike, you can reach the summit where you can marvel at the 360 panoramic views. Wai-O-tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua has the most colourful volcanic areas. The tracks are well-defined and you can walk at your own pace. Use the guidemap to help you check which areas are most suitable for your hiking skills. Other must-try hikes with kids include: Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Rob Roy Glacier, Abel Tasman National Park and Hooker Valley Track.
• Get them mentally prepared for the hike – Whether you’re with a toddler or a teen, its best to have them aware of what to expect. There are plenty of ways to do this. You can grab a brochure of your destination to show it to your kids or you can go online and watch some videos together. Knowing what to expect will not only get them excited for the next adventure but will also prepare them for the physical challenges that come with it.
• Dress appropriately – This applies to everyone in the family. If it’s summer, make sure to use sun screen and hats. In colder months, use warm clothing. Anytime throughout the year, make sure all members of the hiking party wear sturdy footwear. It is never a good idea to wear jandals, sandals or flip flops for hiking. As a standard for any family trip, always have an extra set of dry clothes in your bag for the kids.
• Bring plenty of snacks and a water bottle – It is important to keep kids hydrated and energized. Trail mix, pretzels, fruit slices are easy to pack. Take breaks often to let your kids eat. A small blanket may come in handy to create instant picnic spots along your trail.
• Keep them entertained with games – While some kids are perfectly happy just hopping and skipping along the trail and enjoying nature, others find it more challenging to appreciate the great outdoors. Games like I spy or treasure hunting can keep younger ones engaged. You can also bring a magnifying glass or binoculars to keep things interesting for kids.
• Practice safety protocols – Equip your little ones with an emergency whistle, a compass and a flashlight. Knowing how to use these will make them feel like the hike is an adventure instead of an arduous task. Run them through your first aid kit and how to use some simple items like bandages, plasters and anti-itch lotions. If they require any medication or special things like an asthma inhaler, make sure they’re part of your kit.
• Embrace the pace – It’s all about spending time with your family and letting your kids enjoy nature. Even during the planning phase, it is important to know that the estimated time for the hike doubles when you have little ones with you. You need to be okay with making frequent stops, changing plans and not reaching that waterfall or the summit.
• Don’t forget to capture the moment – Photo opportunities abound on New Zealand’s hiking trails. Bring a camera and make sure it is fully charged with plenty of memory card space. These little breaks for picture taking can help keep your pace slower and more relaxed anyway. You know your kids best, so keep their needs in mind when preparing for your family adventure. So get out there and start exploring!