The beautiful outdoors is a great place for your child to play in, and we’re not talking about your yard or the local park. Hiking trails give your toddler space to explore and take in new sights, but it also gives you some fresh air and the chance to destress and clear your mind. While July is official Parks and Recreation month, you can explore the beautiful world anytime!
For new parents who are about to embark on a hiking journey, here’s some advice to keep in mind to make it enjoyable for everyone.
Your first hike with your little one doesn’t need to be a whole expedition. Pick trails that are close by and can be achieved easily. If and when your toddler gets tired, a simple trail lets you head back without too many complications. Check the weather forecast so you can dress your child appropriately.
If you are unfamiliar with hiking, start out with a local trail that has access to cell service in case of an emergency. Your family will be relieved to know you made the hike back safely. Or, look for a trail that has plenty of other hikers should you need to ask for help.
Research trails local to your area and see what other hikers have said about particular routes, to determine if this is the appropriate trail to take your family. For your toddler, you may want to look for a trail that has fun sights, or exciting rocks and logs to climb on.
Let your toddler be involved
Your little one might not be able to choose the location of the hike just yet, but you can easily involve them in decision making. Assign your child a “job” and switch roles every once in a while. For example, your toddler can carry the map and be the navigator, or the first aid kit and be a medic. Children love having meaningful tasks, so this lets them contribute during the hike.
You may even want to let your child carry their own things! A small backpack with snacks and water should be enough. If your child wants to feel extra grown-up, let him pack his own bag.
Since kids tire easily, you’ll be looking for spots to rest more often than you would like. Keep in consideration if your child will need a nap or not, depending on how long you plan to be outside. In fact, you should be prepared to not even reach the end point of your hike. Your child will be more excited by the sights to see on the journey rather than the destination. Set attainable goals with your little one, such as “Let’s keep going until we reach that lake!”
Prepare for the hike to take an extra long time! Your little one is going to be fascinated by every rock, insect, or something you’ll completely overlook. Give your toddler some time to see the world in a new perspective.
There are plenty of ways to keep your toddler entertained during a hike. You could turns playing “I Spy” with the plants and animals. Or, you could create a checklist of things you and your little one can keep an eye for, which could range from different flowers to squirrels. Similarly, you may want to do a bingo board with your child and see who wins!
Tell a story, point things out, or singing together will keep your child interested as the hike goes on. Use your imagination and spin an exciting tale for your little one.
Leave No Trace
You can educate your child anytime about Leave No Trace, which is a set of principles to minimize your impact on the outdoors. While that rock looks super cool and would look great with your toddler’s collection, it’s best to leave it behind for other people to enjoy. It’s never too early to explain conservation!
The easiest principles of Leave No Trace to teach your child is to clean up waste properly, leave what you find, and to respect wildlife. Let’s leave the trails enjoyable for the next family too.
Plan a Reward for Finishing the Hike
Having a reward at the end of the trip will keep your child’s spirits high. Let your child choose what they’d like to eat when the hike is over: that could mean some ice cream or a nice lunch at their favorite place.
Consider giving small snacks as motivation throughout the hike to keep your child’s spirits high. If all goes well, you may have a future seasoned hiker on your hands! If you stay positive, prepare for the weather, pack plenty of snacks and water, then there’s no place you and your toddler can’t go!