Hiking with toddlers is not always sunshine and rainbows and I don’t ever want you to think that it is or that we have it “all together” because that’s just not true. We have had our fair share of melt-downs, diaper blowouts and carrying kids back to the car. Hiking with toddlers can sometimes be exhausting. We have been there and still sometimes experience those things. However, it’s getting better and we are learning. We hiked before kids, but now we are learning to hike with kids and have been doing so since our oldest was born five years ago.
These are some things that we have learned to have a successful hike with our 3 kids (all 5 and under).
- Let them help select the hiking trail.
- Choose a couple trails that have rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and cool rock formations to climb on and let your kids choose which trail to do. Getting your kids involved in the planning process help them feel more ownership and motivate when hiking! Also, knowing the things they will see on the trail helps to keep them hiking!
- Prepare for the hike.
- Prepare the night before. Get all of the snacks, gear and bags ready to walk out the door. I find that when we are prepare to go and leave on time things on the hike goes a lot smoother. Morning hikes are best for us. We avoid the heat of the day, nap schedules and meal times. Our kids usually have the most energy in the morning helping push them forward on the hike.
- Bring lots of snacks.
- Even though we usually avoid hiking during meal times. Kids still get hungry so we bring lots of snacks (and water) to fuel and motivate them forward. We do bring a couple “bunny treats” to give to them at our destination and at the end of the hike. ***Let me also say that we do still alway bring lunch with us to either eat after hiking or if the hike ends up going a little longer than expected. It’s no fun having hungry kids on the trail.
- Let them take the lead on the trail.
- Again, kids love taking ownership! Our kids love leading on this amazing adventure. They feel a sense of pride knowing that we are following their lead.
- Encourage them.
- We always encourage our kids along the trail letting them know how great they are doing and pointing out how they just climbed all the way up that huge rock. We want our kids to know that they CAN DO HARD THINGS! And than when they start doubting themselves we love to remind them “do you remember when… you hike 9 miles or climbed that huge rock” “do you remember the cool waterfall we saw after that?” (ps. It’s okay to motivate them with snacks and treats too!)
- Distract them.
- After hiking so much with our kids I can foresee the times when they will start complaining. We take these moments to distract and keep their minds off of hiking. We like to ask them questions, talk about some of their favorite things and play little games on the trail.
- Take lots of breaks.
- I can not stress this enough! Take breaks, lots and lots of break! Kids have little legs and it takes them a lot more energy to hike than us- they get tired! They need time to rest so stop, sit down, eat and drink lots of water until they are ready to move forward! When you first start hiking you may be taking a lot of breaks, but the more you hike the less stops you will make! It just takes time to get there!
- Stay Positive.
- I don’t know about your kids, but mine know when I am frustrated or upset! So let things little roll off your back and stay positive! If your excited about the hike most likely the kids will get excited!
- Be Flexible.
- Things don’t always go as plan especially with toddlers. So be willing to be flexible and change plans! Maybe that means you just hangout in one location and don’t get to where you planned. That’s completely okay.
- Remember it’s not about the destination.
- This was a HARD lesson to learn, but it is crucial lesson! When you start hiking with your littles more than likely you will not get to your destination right away, but the more you hike with them the better it will get.
I hope that these tips can help you when you are out hiking with your littles. We have gone through a lot of frustrating hikes and trial and error to figure out what works for our kids. We know that each kid is different and hope that this will help you to find the things that work for you and your kids! Let us know below if you have some tips that have worked for you if it’s not listed above so other families can benefit and try them out.