How to trek with kids

Rock scrambling in Kakadu National Park | Kate Baker
Rock scrambling in Kakadu National Park | Kate Baker

Hiking is a great way to get kids connected to the outdoors at a young age and if it’s your first time bringing the whole family on a trek, there’s a bit of planning to consider. Here are 7 tips to trek with kids, from about age 8 to 16, on a family wilderness adventure.

1. Understand the benefits of trekking as a family

Going on family trekking holidays with your children can provide a fun and interactive way for them to gain a deeper understanding of nature, wildlife, and their place in the world. The trail provides many teachable moments you can have with your children, including educating them about preserving wilderness for future generations, as well as giving them the opportunity to learn about nature, their environment and wildlife in a way that’s more difficult to foster in a classroom.

2. Choosing where to go

- Places with lots of natural features

Entertaining children can be hard – especially when you have to compete with video games, social media and Netflix. If you want to educate and inspire your children with all of the stunning natural features of the land, consider visiting areas that have exciting or interesting natural features such as waterfalls, caves, wildlife or interesting rocks. This can provide a unique and interesting ‘classroom’ experience, giving them the chance to learn about geology, ecology and wildlife first hand. Plus – you get a break from being the ‘teacher’ as our guides have extensive knowledge on the areas we visit, and delight in relaying the history and stories of the landscape. Trips to consider: Family Kakadu Walking Adventure – Over 6 days, embark on a series of day walks to stunning waterfalls, rugged stone country and exceptional Indigenous rock art sites. Cradle Mountain Family Adventure – This 3 day adventure explores Cradle Mountain National Park with an opportunity to summit Cradle Mountain, visits the fascinating caves of the Mole Creek Karst National Park and get up close to a Tasmanian Devil. Larapinta Trek Family Adventure – Explore the family friendly section highlights of the Larapinta Trail including the stunning Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge, whilst staying at our exclusive award-winning eco-friendly campsites.

- Trips with exciting activities

Alternatively, choose trips that have interesting activities which can make the trip more memorable. Including different activities on trips can help your children develop new skills, potentially setting them up for new hobbies or sports that they might not have otherwise considered.

Trips to consider: The Katherine River Canoeing adventure - a three day trip that paddles down the languid tropical waters of the Katherine River, camping on the sandy riverbanks in splendid isolation.

- Custom Trips / private departures

If you’re unsure of what trip is suitable for your family, simply call our friendly Adventure Travel Consultants and give them your children’s age and your families interests, and we can guide you to a suitable trek for your family.

3. Pre-trip planning – getting kids used to walking

While children typically have boundless amounts of energy and enthusiasm, in today’s digital world, a lot of that energy goes into video games, homework and internet browsing. Prior to your trip departing, spend a few days with your children outdoors, going on bushwalks in some of the local national parks. These walks don’t have to be very long- you could start off with a few hours and work your way up to half day bushwalks to get them used to spending a day out on the trail. Let them carry their own light day pack, increasing the weight over a couple of outings. This is also a good time to ensure they have appropriate footwear that they can ‘break in’ prior to the trip.

4. Practise camping at home

For trips such as the Larapinta Trek Family Adventure, the Kakadu Walking Adventure, and Katherine River Canoeing, camping in the remote wilderness with nothing but the sounds of nature to fall asleep to is one of the trip highlights. However, if your children haven’t been on a camping adventure before and are nervous about their upcoming trip, consider introducing them to camping by pitching a tent in your backyard and spending the night with them. This will help them to get used to sleeping under the stars and falling asleep to the sounds of nature.

5. Pack plenty of clothes

All of our trips have packing lists, and recommend you stick to them. While your trip may involve camping in the tropical top end’s warm spring nights, or staying in comfortable accommodation like on the Cradle Mountain Family Adventure, a good trip can easily be spoiled by being cold and under dressed. Regardless of how warm the weather is forecasted to be, it’s worth packing a few extra pieces of clothing in case of cold weather or rain. Remember – it’s all about layers!

6. Get them involved with the planning of the trip

Nothing makes children feel more important than asking for their opinions. Involving children in the planning or choosing of a trip by asking what they want to see and do will help narrow down a trip that the whole family can enjoy. Once on the trip, delegate roles to them such as being in charge of ensuring all litter is collected, or even being in charge of sighting wildlife. This can help teach them responsibility from a young age, and keep them involved in the day to day activities during the trip.

7. Show an interest

Children are naturally inquisitive, and may stop to look at rocks, insects, flowers or wildlife during the trip that you may typically walk past. Try to encourage their curiosity in the land by taking an interest in what they are looking at, giving clear answers when they ask questions and showing your enthusiasm for their willingness to learn. If you’re unable to answer their questions, don’t worry, our guides know the areas like the back of their hands and will happily provide insight into the flora, fauna and geology of the land throughout the trip.

8. Adjust your expectations and take plenty of rest stops

While kids typically have bounds of energy, they can also get tired faster and thus require more rest stops than what adults require. On our family adventures, we encourage short breaks every 60 minutes to hydrate and snack. Remember that attempting long and difficult off-trail expeditions can be challenging for a child. If the trip becomes unpleasant children may remember the negative feelings associated with trekking and hold onto that attitude for years to come, so ensure you are creating a welcoming and fun experience by adjusting your expectations of your trip.

9. Embrace learning opportunities

There are many moments on the trail which can leave a lasting impression on your children. We recommend that the below three elements is incorporated into your conversations with your children.

- Leave no trace policy

Teach your children to respect the land that they are walking in by acquainting them with the Leave No Trace policy:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimise Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Your Hosts and Other Visitors

This will help them mature into adults who respect the outdoors and actively conserve the environment. In some campsites may come across litter from previous trekkers. Teach your children that all litter should be collected together and disposed off correctly, and the after-effects of litter can kill the animals, fish and fragile ecosystems in the environment.

- Trail history

Each trail has a history of its origin. Our guides are able to share the historical stories from how the trail came about, as well as some of the Indigenous stories from the Traditional Owners of the land. These stories add another dimension of interest and learning to your trip.

- Open air classroom (learn about flora, fauna, wildlife)

On our walking adventures, it’s not uncommon to spot lizards, small mammals, birdlife and interesting plants and flowers along the trail. Our guides will happily provide insights into wildlife ecosystems and the relationship between the plants and the animals.

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