Happy to be back in the car after hiking back an hour and a half in the cold rain. Oops.
Hiking with infants to young toddlers
-Choose the right child carrier for you and your little one. Think about the child’s age and comfort. We’ve had everything from a baby sling, to an ergo carrier, to a hiking/backpack carrier.
When the girls were infants we would hike with them in the front carrier. This way they could be comfortably swaddled and breastfeed while we hiked. Once they got into the toddler years and were more “aware” we’d have them in a backpack carrier so that they could be a part of the hike, able to see the world around them.
-Hiking during naptime is always a good idea too. The hiking motion puts little ones to sleep, so hitting the trail during nap time means they get to stick to their regular nap routine and you get that time to hike without kid interruptions.
-Make it fun. Kids get bored easily and often need distractions to keep them going. Singing songs and playing games like I spy can keep the trail fun for everyone.
-SNACKS! Let me reiterate this one. When the girls know that there is a snack or a treat in it for them, it serves as a great motivator. Ellia used to need a lot of motivators, so little snacks that we could continue to give her along the way helped; like fruit gummies or skittles.
Hiking with grade-schoolers
-Once the girls were hiking on their own two feet we gave them the guideline that they could run ahead but that they had to stay within our sight. They could climb boulders and have fun, as long as we could see where they were.
-Get the kids involved in the planning of the hike, where to hike, what to bring for food, and packing their own bags.
-Our girls love to sing, so we’ve started bringing a mini speaker to play music. They love to dance and skip their way up the trail.
-Keep it fun. Now that the girls can carry their own things, we let them bring small toys along. They’ve brought baby dolls (check out the cute doll carriers in the pic below!), spray bottles, and Ellia even brought a karaoke microphone to on our last hike! (Who knows why!? LOL)
-For slower walkers, like Ellia, it’s smart to stick to their pace. Walking too fast just tires her out and makes it that she doesn’t enjoy the hike, which in turn makes it un-fun for the rest of us. We’ve found that giving her mini-destination goals also helps, “we’ll hike to that point and then stop for some water”.
-Be prepared to take a lot of breaks. They have little legs, it’s only fair. Choose a trail that is a good distance and difficulty level for your kid. And stop a lot. Water break, snack break, pee break. Also, give them time to play and discover.
-Watch for signs that they’re getting tired and know when it is time to head back home. And know that although they are big enough to walk on their own two feet, you may still end up carrying them part of the way if they get tired.
-SNACKS! Again! Bring lots!
It’s also important to teach your kids (and lead by example) of the pack-in/pack-out or leave no trace mentality. Bring all your garbage (from dirty diapers to snack wrappers) back home with you to be properly disposed of. Leave the trails clean.
Hiking with kids can be super enjoyable if you are well prepared. Remember to keep it fun, slow down the pace, and enjoy the trail and the time with your kids.