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Trekking with children

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The potential problems when considering whether to go trekking with children are obvious: will they walk? Will they let a porter carry them? What if they get sick? What if the weather is bad? Yet trekking with kids may be one of the best things you or they ever do – especially if there are lots of children together. Delights lie round every corner: chickens, goats, jingling donkey trains, frogs, bugs, waterfalls, caves, temples, prayer wheels – all that plus being the centre of attention everywhere they go.

Routes Stick to easy ones and don’t take a young child above 3500m due to the risks of AMS. The standard treks generally offer more comforts and easier access to emergency services, although a good agency can help you take children off the beaten track.
Pace depends on the age and sportiness of your youngest. Plan on modest days, stopping by mid-afternoon. That said, many children are up for much longer walks than they might be willing to try at home.
Health and safety Trekking has most of the same hazards as a weekend camping trip. The extra concern is tummy bugs: teach kids to drink only boiled or purified water, keep hands and foreign objects out of mouths, and wash hands frequently (sanitary wipes come in handy). Establish clear ground rules about not wandering off, not running, not venturing close to drop-offs, and staying clear of animals. Bathroom arrangements in the more primitive trekking inns may put children off.
Food and drink Some kids love daal bhaat – they can eat it with their fingers – but of course many turn up their noses. Familiar Western dishes are found on the main trails. A water-purifying travel cup is a handy device, or consider bringing neutralizing powder to remove the taste of iodine from purified water.
Transportation Spending hours on winding mountain roads is a recipe for car-sickness and misery. If possible, rent a more comfortable vehicle, or fly.
Porters Consider a porter for each child. Almost all porters are great playmates/babysitters, despite the language barrier, and they can carry the child for all or part of the trek in a customized doko. Make sure any porter you hire is agile, conscientious and sober, and treat him or her well.
What to bring Bring the same range of clothes for your child as for yourself, only more and warmer – and don’t rely on renting locally. Bring a few lightweight games or toys; crayons are ideal. You probably won’t need as many books as you might think, as bedtime comes early.

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