Hiking with Toddlers – 13 Tips for Success
Hiking with toddlers can be a fun and rewarding experience for the whole family, whether you are enjoying short hikes or a longer hike in National parks. Not only will it get you and your young kids outside and active, but it also provides an opportunity for quality time together and creates memories that will last a lifetime. However, hiking with a toddler can be a bit different than hiking on your own.
In this blog post, we’ll provide some tips and tricks on how to hike with a toddler to make your toddler’s hiking adventure a success. We have been exploring Stroller and Toddler Friendly hiking trail locations for years with our own little kids.
Why go hiking with Toddlers?
- Little kids sleep so much better after fresh air!
- Getting outside as a family and engaging in outdoor adventures such as family hikes is good for the overall health of all family members
- With the right gear such as hiking shoes, easy hikes can be fun even with a little hiker
- Family-friendly hikes such as those that you can use a backpack carrier for older toddlers are a great opportunity to spend time together as a family
- Hiking is a FREE activity for all families
What age is appropriate to go hiking?
The simple answer is any age that you feel comfortable exploring with your family. We have enjoyed hiking and camping with our kids since they were as little as 4 months old. As they have grown we transitioned from facing inward baby carriers, to facing outward, then to toddler hiking backpacks. Now that they are ages 2 and 5 years old, they can walk the trails with their own little legs as long as we go for shorter hikes.
We love being outside with our kids and our pets- so checkout our other posts such as The Best Campgrounds in Ontario for Families or Dog Friendly Beaches.
Can you take a Stroller on a Hike?
Yes, you can take a stroller on a hike as long as you research ahead of time to determine if the hike is Stroller Friendly meaning that while that path may not be flat it must not be too rocky! My sister in law hikes often with her stroller, but for this reason they purchased a stroller with three wheels instead of four as it is designed to roll over rugged terrain.
Tips for Hiking with Toddlers
Tip #1: Choose the Right Trail
When choosing a trail for a hike with a toddler, it’s important to assess their individual needs and preferences and choose a trail that will be safe, engaging, and enjoyable for them. Look for trails that are short, relatively flat, and have interesting sights along the way that will keep your toddler’s attention but not be too overwhelming for their little legs.
If you have a really young child, I suggest a baby carrier for longer hikes especially if it is your first time hiking the area. As even though you think the trail may be a stroller friendly trail or a short trail you can easily end up on a much longer hike than anticipated.
Avoid trails that are too steep or have challenging terrain, as this can pose a safety risk and may also be overwhelming for a young child. Instead, aim for trails that are specifically designed for families with young children and offer a safe and fun experience that is both educational and entertaining.
Tip #2: Plan Ahead
Planning ahead is essential to a successful and enjoyable hiking adventure. Make sure you are well-prepared with all the necessary gear and supplies, such as food like trail mix, water bottle, a first aid kit, and weather-appropriate clothing such as a sun hat. It is a good idea to take the time of day into account when planning your hike, as it can get quite hot during the day and much cooler in the evenings.
Additionally, be aware of any potential hazards on the trail, such as poison oak or bees, and take the necessary precautions to keep your toddler safe. Planning ahead can help ensure that your hiking experience is both enjoyable and stress-free.
Tip #3: Invest in Good Hiking Shoes
Do toddlers need good hiking shoes? The simple answer is YES! Investing in good kid’s hiking shoes is an important part of planning a successful hike with a toddler especially since kids are tough on shoes. Good hiking shoes will provide your toddler’s feet with the necessary support and protection, ensuring they remain comfortable and safe throughout the hike and will help them grip on the more rugged trails.
When shopping for hiking shoes for your toddler, look for shoes that fit well and are specifically designed for children. Look for shoes with good traction and made of durable materials to ensure they will last and withstand the trail’s challenges. Additionally, ensure that the shoes are breathable so that your toddler’s feet stay cool and dry, reducing the risk of blisters and other foot problems.
Tip #4: Pack Smart
When packing for a easy hike with your toddler, it is important to consider what you would need for a day in the great outdoors. Plan ahead and pack plenty of water and healthy snacks, as well as extra clothes if the weather changes unexpectedly.
Don’t forget a first-aid kit and any medication your toddler may need, and consider bringing a portable potty or baby wipes in case of an emergency during the hike. Remember to pack everything you need to keep your toddler comfortable, safe and happy on the trail!
Tip #5: Set a Slow Pace
Hiking with a little one means taking things at a slower pace and being flexible with the pace of the hike. This gives your little one time to explore, take breaks, and enjoy the journey without feeling rushed. A great way to get started with hiking during the toddler years is to choose shorter hikes and work your way up to long distances.
Let your toddler set the pace and allow for plenty of stops along the way to take in the sights, rest, and have snacks. This can help prevent burnout, increase the enjoyment of the hike, and ensure a successful and enjoyable experience for everyone involved even if they hikes are short distances.
Tip #6: Make It a Game
Make your toddler’s hike into an enjoyable and interactive game. Make a scavenger hunt or go on a nature walk to learn how to identify different plants and animals. To keep your toddler engaged and entertained, play “I Spy” or other games along the trail.
This can make the hike feel more exciting and less like a chore. You can also encourage your toddler to bring a small backpack filled with items they can collect along the way, such as leaves, rocks, or sticks. Encouraging them to participate in the adventure and take ownership of the hike can boost their interest and enjoyment.
Tip #7: Take Breaks
Taking breaks along the way is essential. When necessary, stop for snacks, a drink of water, or simply to rest. Allowing your toddler to take breaks will help them avoid burnout and ensure they have enough energy to finish the trail. Also plan the best time in their day as the time to go hiking so either early in the morning, or after nap is usually best as they are in the best mood at this time of the day.
You can also use this time to point out and discuss interesting sights, such as wildlife or a scenic view, with your toddler. Encourage them to be curious and ask questions, making the hike both educational and enjoyable. Regular breaks also help them stay focused and excited about the journey ahead.
Tip #8: Use Sunscreen
Using sunscreen is essential for all outdoor activities, especially when hiking with a toddler. It’s important to remember to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and reapply as necessary throughout the day, especially if the sun is strong.
This will help protect your little one’s delicate skin from harmful UV rays and prevent sunburn, which can be painful and damaging. Sunscreen should also be water-resistant and free of harmful chemicals, so make sure to read the labels and choose a product that is safe and effective. Additionally, consider bringing a hat and sunglasses to provide further protection from the sun’s rays.
Tip #9: Respect Wildlife
When out hiking, it’s crucial to educate toddlers about the incredible wildlife they may encounter on the trail. Teach your little one to observe animals from a safe distance and never to disturb their natural habitats or try to touch or feed them. This not only helps protect the wildlife, but it also promotes an appreciation for nature and helps keep your toddler safe. By fostering respect for wildlife and their habitats, you can instill essential values in your toddler and create a lifelong love for the great outdoors.
Tip #10: Keep Them Close
When hiking with toddlers, it’s critical to stay close at all times. Keeping your child close by will not only prevent them from wandering off the trail and becoming lost, but it will also allow you to keep a constant eye on their safety. Consider using a child carrier, hiking backpack or harness to keep younger toddlers secure if they are unable to walk on their own (typically kids that are 2 year old and younger). This will provide you with peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy the hike and concentrate on creating memorable moments with your child.
Tip #11: Be Prepared for Emergencies
In case of an emergency, preparation is key. Make sure to pack a comprehensive first-aid kit and have the necessary knowledge to use it effectively in case of an injury. In addition, bring a charged cell phone and a detailed map of the area so that you can call for help if needed.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the trail map and surrounding area before setting off of a new hike, so you are prepared to handle any situation that may arise during your hike on the nature trail. This extra preparation will give you peace of mind and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for you and your little one.
Tip #12: Encourage Them to Explore
Encourage your toddler to explore and discover the world around them on your hike. Point out interesting sights, such as unique plants and animals, and let them touch and feel different textures.
This not only helps them develop their senses, but it also fosters a love for nature and the outdoors. This can have a positive impact on their future appreciation and understanding of the environment. Encouraging their natural curiosity and imagination will create memories that will last a lifetime.
Tip #13: Make It a Routine
Hiking adventures with toddlers can become a fun and regular family affair. Set aside a day each week for a family hike, and as your toddler grows, explore new trails and revisit favorite hikes. This not only helps them develop a love of nature and the outdoors, but it also allows for quality family time.
Hiking on a regular basis can improve physical fitness, strengthen family bonds, and provide a sense of adventure. Play games, take breaks, and stop for a picnic lunch on sunny days to make it a fun and exciting experience for everyone. Remember that the goal is to create memories that will last a lifetime and to impart in your toddler a love of nature. Celebrate with a treat at the end of the hike – maybe even some ice cream.
Hiking with a toddler can be a fun and rewarding experience for the whole family. By following these top tips, you can make sure your hiking experience is safe and enjoyable. Remember to choose the right trail, plan ahead, and pack smart. Set a slow pace, make it a game, and take breaks as needed. Invest in good hiking shoes, use sunscreen, respect wildlife, stay hydrated, and pack a potty. And, most importantly, keep an eye on your toddler at all times and make sure you are paying close attention. So, grab your backpack, your toddler, and hit the trails. Happy hiking!