Hiking with a child: day hikes

Jouni Laaksonen 12.8.2021

I will remember this summer for two things. Well, three, for of course COVID-19 will mark memories of this summer, too. Anyhow, the pandemia hasn’t been much of an issue here in sparsely populated north.

First, this was the hottest summer of my life. We swam in the nearby lakes numerous times, and really enjoyed deserted beaches and warm lake water. During the hottest period hiking meant always walking or paddling to a beach. At the same time the hotness and dryness was a big burden to gardens and all of nature. We all really have to act to lessen the climate crisis!

Second, this was a summer I hiked a lot with my younger daughter. Naturally we did many hikes with all the family, but I also spent two weeks hiking with our younger one, just the two of us.

Children are playful. In woods they don’t need toys or electrical devices to enjoy. Walking only on rocks is one popular pastime on paths. 🙂

People often ask me to give tips for hiking with kids. I usually give this simplified list of five:

  1. Do go. Don’t think you need to wait for your offspring to grow older, just go and hike. We started hiking with our older one when she was three months old (this was winter), and with the younger one when she was one month old (this was summer).
  2. Pay attention you don’t plan too hard a hike. Take care the weather forecast is goodish, make a roomy timetable, don’t plan for too long a march.
  3. Don’t stress over clothes or equipment. Simple day hike in summer or autumn weather doesn’t need anything special. Just normal comfortable clothes and shoes, rucksack, something to eat and drink and so on. A multi-day hike is a bit different case, though.
  4. A friend is super nice! As in all life, also during a hike a child likes to have company.
  5. Take care everyone has a good time. It’s the duty of the adult to take care of this in every way. This includes planning, considering mosquitoes, frozen temperatures etc., equipment for rain, and for example taking care everyone eats and drinks often enough. Low blood sugar leads to anger.
Much more thoroughly I address the topic in my book Lapsiperheen retkeilyopas (could be translated as ‘Hiking guide for families’, or ‘How to hike with kids’). The book is in Finnish.

This time we skipped number four, and it was interesting to see how my daughter reacted.

Day hiking with a child

In June my older daughter went for a week to confirmation school. My wife was busy at work, and so I headed with the younger, 7 years old child for a week long tour of day hikes. We did one or two hikes per day and had a great time.

We traveled in the middle of Finland, for I was partly also working. I wanted to see several destinations in that area, and I will write articles about them for next summer’s outdoor magazines.

It was rather hot, and there were a lot of mosquitoes. I don’t like to support chemical industry by poisoning insects. We didn’t use repellents, but just light but protective clothing and headnets. Mosquitoes were not a problem for us.

Our mosquito equipment.

Because of the hiking boom caused by COVID-19 there are a lot of hikers in the national parks of Finland, but in the less known, but quite spectacular hiking destinations we visited there were either no other hikers or just some. That’s one thing we like a lot in my family: solitude and peace.

My daughter also enjoyed especially gorges, erratic boulders and cliffs with views. Thunder she didn’t like at all, even as it was rumbling far away. Gladly she likes walking in the woods. Following a path is fun, and she likes to step on rocks and roots. And she sees many beautiful or peculiar things I would miss, like small butterflies, colorful leaves or flowers, small tunnels heading under the moss, cute pebbles…

We slept in a cottage in a small camping ground or similar and then drove to our hiking destination. After the hike we either drove to another hiking destination, or to the next overnight cottage. I had a tent and sleeping bags in the car just in case I wouldn’t manage to find accommodation for us for some night, but in the end we didn’t use the tent at all. Simple and luxurious hiking. 🙂

One night we slept in the camping ground at Sumiainen village. There were no modern luxuries in the small old cabin, but I liked this evening best of all the week. The place was beautiful, a narrow strip of land between two lakes, and as an extra bonus there was an art path next to the camping ground. Local do-it-yourself artists had created really inventive things to see beside the lakeshore path. Above my daughter is signing the guest book of the art path.
An umbrella is quite nice piece of equipment. Especially when it’s hot, an umbrella is cooler than a rain jacket.

We also had a routine she loved. Every morning I hid something in her small backpack: a little pack of raisins or other dried fruit, or nuts, or a liquorice bar. Then we had hiked for a while, and she started asking: “When may I search my backpack?” After another while she got the permission to seek, and then eat a part of the treat. With a small treat like this she got extra energy and motivation for all of the, say, 3 to 5 km loop we were hiking. Of course we also ate other snacks like carrots and sandwiches, and also a proper lunch from my backpack during the hike.

On left: This time our lunch was sandwiches. On right: Her backpack has several small pockets, and it was fun to search for the treat of the day. Today the prize was a box of raisins and other dried fruits.

My daughter liked getting all the attention of a parent alone. Don’t get me wrong, our daughters enjoy a lot hiking together. They for example invent great games they play on the boulders and fallen dead trees, but clearly this week of hiking with just dad was something special to the young girl.

We are standing on top of an old linnavuori, Castle rock. In former centuries the villagers from nearby used to run to this easily defensible rock formation if enemy boats approached. History is interesting, and scenery is not bad either. 🙂

This summer we also did a 40+ km hike into larger wilderness with this same combination of dad and 7 years old girl. I’ll tell about that on my next post. Happy hikes to you, with or without children!

3 thoughts on “Hiking with a child: day hikes

  1. It was a nice story to read, thank you. May I ask, where is the forest of the photo, in which your daughter is walking with an umbrella? It looks really inviting. 🙂


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