Take these steps to make it a safe experience:
- Wear the right gear. Outfit everyone in hats and layered clothing for sun, rain, and wind. A daypack certifies your preschooler as a "real" hiker, even if it only holds a favorite toy. Get your child a pack that fits, or you may be the one who ends up carrying it.
- Stay skin safe. Load your daypack with a first-aid kit and other emergency items. Include sunscreen and insect repellent to slather on before leaving.
- Bring water for everyone. Carry plenty of water to keep hydrated. Also bring your child's favorite healthy snacks. Avoid foods that might spoil, squish, or melt.
- Choose the right trail. Select one that suits the ability of your youngest hiker and be ready to frequently stop to admire pebbles and bugs.
- Model good citizenship. If you pack it in, pack it out — trash, that is. Always stay on the trail. Remember, the wildlife you see is wild, so don't approach animals and never feed them.
- Sing in the rain! When storm clouds gather, don raingear and tell stories or sing songs. If the weather turns really nasty, move to the trailhead, but keep the mood light. Your attitude is everything.
- Say cheese! Even a 4-year-old can help record your outings with a single-use camera. Invite him to capture images to share with friends and relatives.