Hiking is a wonderful way to get some fresh air and enjoy nature. But what if you've got a toddler in tow? Don't fret! The following hiking tips for families with toddlers will help you make your journey enjoyable for adults and toddlers alike.
1. Carefully Choose Your Hike Location
Of course, maybe you'd like to conquer the summit of a high ridge on your hike but this is not the day to do it with a toddler along for the trip! Scout out some easy hiking routes in your local area either through your town or city's recreation office, the National Park Service or a website like AllTrails that allows you to enter in a town or location and it will come back with photos and a description and rating of the hike. Flat, easy and maybe even a well-worn trail that allows for a jogging stroller in case your little one gets tired is ideal.
2. Use the Right Gear
There's nothing worse than being on a hike with a toddler and having to schlep a bag, hold a jacket or the dreaded declaration, "I'm tired, carry me!" when you're trying to keep things hands free and enjoyable yourself. As mentioned above, a jogging stroller that is rugged enough to handle a trail with mulch, tree roots and uneven surfaces is a plus. You can throw your stuff in the carrier and put your little guy or gal in there if they get tired. Also, a backpack or bag that allows hands free comfort for you without chafing and large enough to carry everything you're bringing is ideal.
3. Snacks and Drinks are a Necessity
Every toddler is all about the food so pack snacks and especially drinks particularly in the warmer months. Don't let your little ones get hungry and thirsty as that ruins a hike for them and you and dehydration is a real concern. Because most hiking trails do not have trash facilities, bring reusable and non-leakable containers. One that works well for families is Precidio's Drink in the Box which doesn't leak and it gives an ample 8 oz. or 12 oz. supply of water, juice or whatever you want your child to drink. The same goes for their matching Snack in the Box which allows two types of snacks to be dispensed from the same container with no spilling. Just be sure not to pack the Top 9 Choking Foods in your container!
4. Keep it Clean
There's nothing worse than when your toddler spills a drink on himself and has a fit. You're in the middle of nowhere on a trail so always pack extra clothing and supplies plus a plastic bag to put it all in to take home and launder. For messy faces and hands, try a cloth that uses nothing but water (which you'll have with you anyway on your hike) and you can throw in the bag with the wet, dirty clothes, like the e-cloth Reusable Hand & Face Cleaning Kit which is available online. Hiking and being environmentally friendly teaches your child how to treat the earth properly from an early age. Here are 8 Easy Ways to Teach Your Child to Go Green!
5. Make it Fun and Interesting for Your Child
Most toddlers love adventures but sometimes a hiking trail can be less interesting for them than it is for you. Ask them questions about the woods or what kinds of plants you see along the way. A wonderful way to get kids engaged is by packing a few fun things to keep interested as they stroll along with you. Binoculars or a magnifier helps kids see things from a unique perspective and keeps it interesting. Educational Insights has the GeoSafari Jr. Bright Eyes Magnifier which allows kids ages three and above to investigate the bark on a tree or a bug on the path up close. Toddlers love to see things as close as possible and this is the perfect way to excite them about their hike.
6. Keep it Safe
Make sure your cellphone is charged and your route isn't too lengthy or off the beaten path. Also, inform a friend or family member if you're hiking alone with your child and let them know exactly where you're going and when just for double safety. Check the weather in advance and dress in layers in case it gets cool or hot unexpectedly. Don't ever let your child wander out of your view or near water. Also stash a few antibacterial wipes, spray and bandages in your backpack in case you need them. Hiking with a toddler means safety first so being prepared is key.
Engaging your child to enjoy nature can foster a lifelong love of the earth and the desire to explore.