Hiking With Toddlers – 9 Tips & Tricks For Parents

hiking with toddlersHiking with toddlers can be fun and challenging at the same time.  Here are some great tips and tricks to help your family enjoy hiking together.

When we first began hiking with our kids once they were past the baby stage I had a hard time adapting to the new pace.  However, over time I came around to the idea of hiking more as a chance to explore slowly then to push myself as hard as I could.  Hiking with toddlers is a lot of fun as long as you, the parent, have the right mindset.

hiking with toddlers9 Tips & Tricks On Hiking With Toddlers

The Goal Is The Journey Not The Destination

This is an old saying that I have heard over and over and I think it applies perfectly to hiking with toddlers. Prior to having kids I was used to picking a trail that led to a nice waterfall, lake, or peak. Then my goal for the hike was to get to the destination.  When hiking with toddlers, you can’t think like that.

One of the tricks to hiking with toddlers is to keep your goals much simpler. Rather than having the lake or peak as your goal, the goal for the day should be to just get outside with your kids and family. Maybe you will make it to the peak or lake, but more likely your toddler will want to wander around, pick flowers, throw rocks, and go slow.

At This Age It Is All About Making It Fun

I guess this could apply to any age, but I find it fitting for toddlers and young kids.  Parents need to keep in mind that it is important to make the hike fun for your kids.  At this young age we have a great opportunity to instill in our kids a love of the outdoors and show them that it is fun to be outside.  If they have fun they will want to do it again.

Feed Them

As with all kids and adults it is important to keep up everyone’s energy while on the trail.  For toddlers this means bringing along lots of snacks and food to keep them energized.  Bring along fruit, nuts, trail mix, bars, and other good treats or sweets to incentivize them.  Have a snack before you start and then give out bits while hiking.  Then you can stop and have a picnic along the way or at the end.

hiking with toddlers

Let them walk when they can. Then be ready to carry them.

Let Them Walk

This may seem like a crazy thing, especially if you are excited to go hiking yourself because it means you will be moving at a snails pace. That is OK. If your toddler has a chance to get out and explore at his own pace now and then he will be a happier kid.

Then after he walks for a bit you can ask if he is ready to get back in the pack and be carried. I know that all kids are different, but most kids will be ready to take a free ride and just enjoy the scenery.

hiking with toddlers

Fun Southern Utah hiking.

Attach The Pacifier To Your Pack

One of the key tricks that we learned when hiking with a toddler was to attach the pacifier to the backpack with a string or thin piece of nylon. This will save you from losing a pacifier and then having a screaming or crying baby stuck on your back for an hour or so.

I learned this the hard way as we often had to stop and try to retrieve the pacifier from wherever it fell. It may have fallen into the dirt, sand, or sometimes even required us to downclimb a sketchy cliff when we were desperate.

hiking with toddlers

Keep them engaged and talk with them when they are in the backpack.

Talk To Them & Sing Songs To Them When They Are Being Carried

Even though my kids would be on my back and I couldn’t actually see their face as we hiked along I always enjoyed talking with them. Depending on how old they are you can chat about the areas you are walking through. Or you could sing songs together.

Give Them Things To Hold

If they are awake and in my pack I would always try to give them different things to hold and touch. All of us like to feel things and get that sensory experience that we don’t get just by looking and listening. I would pick up pinecones, small rocks, flowers, or twigs and hand them back to them.

Sometimes they would love it and hold onto it for a long time and others that item would quickly be dropped, but that is OK. At least it gave them something to do, think about, and gave them a choice.

hiking with toddlers

A small blanket or top folded up makes a great pillow and help them sleep easier.

If Possible – Keep Moving When They Are Asleep

My kids spent so much time in the various kid backpack carriers that oftentimes they would simply fall asleep. Once they were asleep we would try to just continue walking at a nice, slow, steady pace so that they didn’t wake up. You don’t want to stop soon after they fall asleep, take off the pack and cause them to wake up. A lot of kids are a bit grouchy if their nap is interrupted.

hiking with toddlers

A fun ladder to climb was part of this trail.

Pick The Right Trail

It is important to pick the right kind of trail when hiking with a toddler. The ideal trail will have lots of fun things to do or see along the way. For example, a trail that passes by or follows a river or creek is good. Or it is always a bonus if there are boulders or trees to climb on. Kids are natural climbers and love to do it. Granted, that will mean stopping to play along the trail, which will make the time it takes to get to the destination take longer, but that is OK because everyone will have fun and want to go hiking again.

Don’t pick a trail that simply climbs steeply up the whole way or takes a long stretch in the hot sun before you get to a cool spot. It is also a good idea to begin by picking shorter trails until you and your kids get used to hiking and know how far you can go and still have fun.