Preparing Your Route
- Take the time to look carefully at the map and its contours or carry out a reconnaissance of the route.
- Take the opportunity to check out the orientation and try to choose shady trails in summer - the whole family can keep cool and it will be more pleasant when you take a break. Remembering that a child aged 3-4 walks at about 1mph (and takes a lot of breaks), the topoguide estimates will not be of much help to you because the schedules they provide are for an adult walker.
- Plan for some contingency, so you can enjoy your hike without worrying about the time. Don't forget to check the local weather and don't worry about postponing your plans if the weather is bad or it's too cold. Children are much more sensitive than us and hiking should remain a pleasant activity for them.
- Routes with some refuge will allow you to take a long break and be sheltered. Don't forget to drink water!
- Finally, avoid cable cars and gondola lifts, which certainly reduce the effort but can cause decompression problems in young children.
Find The Right Pace
Start with a few short, easy walks, and if you see that your child is doing well and getting the hang of it, gradually increase the difficulty of the route. In general, avoid excessively high altitudes (it is not recommended to go above 2,000 m).
Here are a few markers about the elevation and the mileage of your excursion that you can of course adapt to your child's abilities:
- 0 - 18 months: no limits since it's the carrier that puts in 100% of the effort. But still think about limiting the duration of your excursions because children need to move and take breaks. Remember to limit altitude and exposure too (to both sun and cold).
- 18 months - 3 years: depending on how independent your child is, they might want to start doing part of the route themselves. But they will quickly become tired and will still need to take naps. Plan for fairly short routes (100-300 m of height difference) and a carrying method.
- 4 - 7 years: you can consider trips of 400-500 m in elevation / 6-7 km in distance, to be adapted to suit the age and level of independence of your child.
If they feel they have a "mission" to complete your children will be much more willing to walk.
Tourist offices will be your best allies here as many of them have maps with orientation circuits that are accessible throughout the year. Using these resources, your children will have to find the locations shown on the card ensuring they make their way along the route.
If you do not have an orientation circuit at your hiking location, you can use the markings that appear along the footpaths. This type of activity teaches children to find their way around. So they become your hiking guide!
For the littler ones, you can prepare a simple list of things to find during the hike so it becomes a kind of treasure hunt:
- Sticks of a certain shape
- Stones of varying shades, pine cones, bark, flowers, leaves of certain species etc.
Let your creativity run free and let them add to the list for next time! You can also build a herbarium with the older ones.