Now that the weather is getting cooler, lots of Cub Scout leaders will be taking younger youth on day hikes. I think there are some very important rules. The most important being …never lose a child. Kids tend to run around, hide, get tired and lag behind. They also tend to have a short attention span. An answer to part of this is to have leadership at least two deep as required, one in the front and one at the rear. Depending on the number of young hikers, ask parents if they would like to accompany you. The safety of each child is paramount. The buddy system should always be used, but I must admit I don’t think it is foolproof.
I read a blog written by a Dad who hikes with his two kids, aged 8 and four. I loved his outlook. His kids carried day packs weighing no more than ten pounds. He hiked slowly, taking frequent snack breaks. During breaks and hiking, they played my version of “I spy”. That way they learned about leaves, trees, and berries, as well as clouds and animal tracks and lots more. They sang songs geared to their age and were encouraged to ask questions.
In their backpacks, they carried water, a sandwich, clothes which layer, sunscreen, and a hat. Most important the carried their own snack packs. It is important for young hikers to wear appropriate footwear. They don’t need hiking boots, but no flip-flops or sneakers with smooth soles.
Along with the backpack items mentioned above, BSA also recommends a flashlight, whistle, and first aid kit. Explain that the whistle is not a toy and that it should only be used for an emergency. I think a whistle could also be used to communicate from front to back with a pre-determined code.
I always hiked as a child with my family. My Scout Dad always made it fun, but he was also well informed, so he could answer our questions. I must admit, however, when I was Cub Scout age, I went to summer camp in Vermont. While there we had to climb the back side of Mt. Mansfield. It was then I found out I was afraid of heights and snakes. I have hiked uphill as an adult, but it took my husband’s helping hand while my eyes were closed to accomplish things at freak-out points. Be aware of each of your young hikers’ abilities or lack thereof. Sometimes a helping hand or word of encouragement will make or break their hiking experience.