With the weather getting nicer, it’s much easier to convince yourself to get out and be active with your family. The only problem, you have a toddler! For many people, having young children is a good reason to stay home, or pass on an opportunity to get out and explore; be it your own backyard or somewhere much more grand. But the reality is, having little ones doesn’t need to be a reason to put away your hiking boots, hoping they will still fit in 10 years time. You really can go hiking with a toddler!!!
Toddlers can certainly make a hike much more entertaining, as they are typically tiny bundles of energy that just want to keep moving. More often than not, running instead of walking along the trail, they can be the inspiration that keeps your hiking party going. But what do you do when they’ve lost interest? Or when they are tired and can’t walk any further? Do you carry them or turn back? And how do you keep them from tumbling over the edge and having an all-out meltdown on the trail?
As any parent knows, travel of any kind with a child (infant or toddler) just requires a little more strategic planning. If you’re looking for ways to keep your hikes fun and relatively stress-free when you’re being herded along by a 3-foot tall hiking companion, than these tips are just want you’ll need.
1. Snack, snacks and MORE snacks!!!
There really is no better way to put this….you need to bring snacks along with you…and I’m talking the good kind! Consider packing the ones that you may not always let your kids eat on a regular basis. Or perhaps the ones that you bribe them with (we all do it…there’s no shame). Whatever you decide to bring, make sure your little one never gets hungry. A hungry baby is always an unhappy baby. And let’s face it, food is a form of entertainment all on it’s own, or at least it helps to break up a monotonous trail once your little adventurer has had enough.
Our favourite snacks to bring along:
- – a small travel cup filled with small bits of cheese and pepperoni or sausage
- – cliff bars (good for kiddo and mum/dad)
- – crackers…typically two different kinds
- – cereal bars
- – rice cakes
- – GoGoSqueez fruit pouches
- – CHOCOLATE!!!
2. Let them walk, explore and be the leader
As much as going at a slower pace can feel painful, especially when on a longer hike, remember that kids fidget and get tired of just riding along or being carried. They need the chance to stretch their legs, explore their surroundings, and even be the pack leader for a bit. Typically, when our little guy starts to get really difficult, freedom is all he needs. Instantly he’s in a better mood, gathering sticks and rocks to show us. And in all honesty, it’s usually in these periods of slower movement that we create the best family memories.
We always let Ollie walk until he wants to be carried again. The transition into the carrier is easier when he’s ready for a bit of a break. But be warned, those little legs can take kids much farther down the trail than you might expect before they get tired.
3. Always add more time
When planning your hiking adventure you may discover that others have posted saying a hike should take ‘X’ amount of time to complete. As an experienced parent, you’ll already be adding extra time, knowing you need to account for breaks and exploration. My suggestion, add more! No matter what you’ve accounted for or calculated as a sufficient amount of time, trying to stay inside of a time constraint is extremely stressful. Even if you get to the trail head faster than you anticipated, having extra time on the clock ensures you don’t need to rush.
4. Keep items accessible
This will come with practice. Finding the right place for all of your items will come over time, and unfortunately you’ll end up making a number of mistakes along the way. But keep at it, it definitely gets easier the more you do it. Keeping important toddler items accessible will save you the hassle of having to stop and take your pack off multiple times when on the trail.
These are the key items that should be easiest to grab:
- – water bottle
- – snacks (easy to eat without assistance)
- – toys (our little guy has his own camera to take pictures along with mum and dad)
- – layers (don’t let them get cold! They are just as miserable cold as when they’re hungry)
5. Don’t forget to have fun – toddler style
In order to encourage a love of nature and exploring the great outdoors, hiking with toddlers requires a little out-of-the-box thinking from mum and dad. Try to remember the awe and wonder of gathering sticks when you were a kid. Try to see the many possibilities a pet rock can have. And don’t forget to sing and have dance parties along the trail. If you want to instill in them a passion for hiking, it has to be a fun experience that they will want to do over and over again.
6. Embrace Mother Nature
We’re already outdoor enthusiasts, and we’re trying to help create the next generation of wilderness lovers. So with that in mind, don’t think of the trail as just a means of getting from point A to point B. Use this chance as an opportunity to teach your little one about nature, about trees, about the birds in the sky or the chipmunk scurrying along the ground. Let their tiny fingers graze the ferns and mosses and tree bark. Listen to the wind as it rustles the leaves on the tress. Take this time to really tune in to what Mother Nature is showing you.
Heck, you never know, maybe you’ll find your time in nature just as inspiring as your little explorer.
7. Don’t be afraid to turn back
As much as we all hate to admit defeat, hiking with a toddler (and even some adults) can be unpredictable. They may be in a great mood when you load them in to the car, but nothing is turning them around once you hit the trail. And in all honesty, it happens to everyone. Having a cranky little one on your back while hiking for hours is no ones idea of a good time and forcing it will just make it that much worse on your next adventure. So don’t be afraid to turn around and reschedule your hike for another day. There is absolutely no shame in it!
So there you have it, our top 7 tips and tricks for hiking with a toddler. Did we miss any keys pieces of advice that you’d add? Are there any other questions you have about getting out there with your own little explorer? Leave them in the comments below.