By: Abby Barnes
Adventure Mom @abby.outdoors Shares Her Top 7 Secrets to Hiking with Little Ones
Say it with me, “Babies are portable!” When you become pregnant, so many people love to tell you about all the things you can no longer do with a baby. My favorite response to these people: “Babies are portable.” And thanks to the Kelty Journey PerfectFIT™ child carrier, transitioning from a solo hiker to a baby-carrying one was so easy! I absolutely love getting to spend my days exploring the outdoors with my “portable” toddler.
The baby days are easy peasy. Once you have a busy toddler, developing a game plan, as well as having a few tricks up your sleeve, will make your hike go much smoother. Here are a handful of tips I use to help you make the most of your days on the trail with your little:
1. Do your homework!
Research trails in your area that designated with an “easy” rating. Popular sources for research include mobile apps, social media groups, and personal blogs. Initially, start small, but don’t be afraid to slowly increase elevation and mileage as you and your little increase your endurance. Read reviews about obstacles you may find on the trail. Pay close attention to trail features, including exposure, rock scrambles, or lots of mosquitos! Once you have chosen your trail, decide how much (and when) your toddler will be walking versus riding in the carrier.
Depending on the elevation and length of the hike, either 1) start off with them walking at the beginning and once tired load them up or 2) carry them the first half of the hike and have them walk down the trail back to the car. Find whatever works best for you and your family! You’ll be surprised with how far their little legs can carry them!
2. Prep, Prep, Prep.
The hardest part of your day is likely going to be simply getting out the door. Starting your preparation the night before will make your day as easy as possible. Go ahead and load the car with your hiking gear. Pack your bag with non-perishables and anything else that you might need. Lay out your and your baby’s clothes and have the diaper bag ready to go. If you’re trying to hit the road really early, have a plan for breakfast. Making your morning as smooth as possible will not only be quicker, but will have you and your tot in a better state for when you hit the trail.
3. Plan for more time (and snacks)!
With your high-energy, easily-distracted toddler, your hiking pace is going to drop way down. Keep your expectations low for distance accomplished, and then be happily surprised when they meet the goal! Since your hiking duration will increase, be prepared with all of the favorite snacks. If you need to get your little moving, a little bribery never hurts!
Choose a time of the day that your toddler will be happiest and have the longest wake window.
4. Let them lead the way.
Toddlers want to be in control, so let them be! Once they’re walking, let them be the trailblazer. Not only is it fun to watch, but your toddler is learning balance, hand-eye coordination, and gaining strength as they are slowly waddling along. Let them get dirty, throw rocks, smell flowers, and learn to love the outdoors. It takes a little more patience and time, but you know what they say: “Happy toddler, happy life.”
5. Make time in the carrier fun!
Eventually, your toddler may need a lift– it could be anywhere from minutes to hours. The majority of the time, they’ll be content just observing and chatting with you. However, if they start to get a little unsettled, try to incorporate the things your toddler enjoys into your hike. That may include bending down to sniff the flowers, soaring like an airplane, pointing out birds and wildlife, or petting every other tree you pass.
6. Treat your destination like a destination.
It’s easy to get into the mentality of making it to the end, spending a couple minutes, and then getting back down the trail. Instead, sit down and play! The waterfall or alpine lake, or overlook that you hiked to, is now your playground for the day. Sometimes, you won’t make it to your goal, but that’s okay! Any time spent on the trail is a successful trip. It’s all about enjoying the journey- even if it is slower than you are accustomed to!
When you make it back to the car, celebrate! Tell them how proud you are of them and what a strong, brave hiker they were! Come up with a special high five/handshake/dance to make it personal. Have a small bag/cooler with a favorite drink or snack (and don’t forget your favorites treats, too)! Bring their favorite toy and have it waiting for them in the car. Although this whole step isn’t mandatory, it is an excellent way to make the whole experience fun and positive!
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