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Hiking and Paddling for Kids
- Never walk alone.
- Let someone at home know your hike plans in advance.
- Stay together as a group, hiking at the pace of slower walkers. If older children want to walk faster than younger ones, designate an easy-to-find meeting spot.
- Know your route. Follow a map or ask a forest ranger about the trail.
- Don't run on rocky or steep trails.
- Step around or over rocks and roots whenever possible.
- Stay on the trail to limit damage to nature and avoid poison ivy, poison oak, and ticks.
- Don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink.
- Don't drink from mountain streams, which may be contaminated with infectious organisms.
- Take frequent rests—at least five minutes every half hour for novices.
- Be prepared for bad weather or a longer trip than expected. Bring extra clothes, food, and water.
- Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) of the proper size—infant, child-small, child-medium, or adult. Avoid orange horse collar styles, which can be hot and uncomfortable.
- Learn how to swim or have experience floating in a PFD.
- Learn how to paddle and do water rescues.
- Stay low and hold onto the upper edges of the boat's sides when getting in or out of the canoe.
- Children in the middle should sit on the bottom of the boat using seat cushions that double as back-up flotation devices.
- Don't suddenly shift from one side of the canoe to the other.
- Know your route—the direction of the current, places to put in and park, dams, rapids, and other hazards. Let someone at home know of your plans in advance.
- If wind or waves are strong, kneel instead of sitting on the seats when paddling.
- Check weather forecasts before heading out. If caught in a storm, get to shore as quickly as possible.
- Bring extra rope for tying up on shore or rescues.
- Begin river excursions heading upstream, so the return trip—when you're more tired—will be easier.
- Anyone canoeing should not consume alcohol or any other substance that could impair alertness or function.
What to Wear
What to Bring Along
- Plenty of water—Bring at least a quart per person for a four-hour trip, and more on a hot day. Let each child carry their own water. Fanny packs with water bottles are convenient.
- Snacks/lunch—Choose compact food like fruit, cheese, and granola bars. Granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts alone or mixed together are a nutritious option.
- Magnifying glass, bug box, binoculars, and guidebooks for nature watching
- Tissues or toilet paper
- Sunscreen (at least SPF 30)
- Insect repellent—For children, use repellents with DEET concentrations no greater than 30%. Do not use in children younger than two months old.
- First-aid kit with moleskin, bandages, gauze dressing, adhesive tape, compression bandages, safety pins, tweezers, non-aspirin pain relievers, anti-diarrheal tablets, and allergy medication, if appropriate
- Camping knife, flashlight, and matches
- Extra clothes if your child gets wet or was sweating
American Canoe http://www.americancanoe.org
Appalachian Mountain Club http://www.outdoors.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Parks Canada http://www.pc.gc.ca
Insect Repellents. Healthy Children website. Available at http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/pages/Insect-Repellents.aspx. Updated May 11, 2013. Accessed December 24, 2013.
Swimming safely in lakes, rivers, and streams. American Red Cross website. Available at http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA%5FCustomProductCatalog/m4240225%5FLakesRivers.pdf. Accessed December 24, 2013.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens. Accessed October 20, 2014.
Top 10 safety tips. American Canoe Association website. Available at http://www.americancanoe.org/?page=Top%5F10. Accessed December 24, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 12/2013
- Update Date: 10/20/2014