Did you love hiking before you had kids? The feeling of freedom and endless exploration is second to none. The ability to hop in the car and drive to a beautiful destination, get out and let your feet lead the way to mountain tops, shimmering lakes, and gorgeous waterfalls will remain in your memory forever. Hiking by yourself is such an amazing pastime and hiking with kids can be too! Hiking with kids does require a bit more planning beforehand and patience. Hiking with kids can be some of the most enjoyable times your family will spend together.
What To Plan Out And Prepare Before You Even Leave The House
Start by deciding what type of hike you want to go on. How far do you want to drive to get to your destination? Once you have that figured out, think about what hiking distance and elevation your family is up for. Do you want a short 1-3 mile hike? Or something a bit more extreme. A great tool to help you in this decision-making process is the website All Trails. This website is a great resource where you can type in your location and put in filters such as trail distance, elevation, family-friendly, or what you might want to see on your hike. All Trails gives you a list of trails that match your criteria.
Once you have decided where you’re going and how long of a hike it will be, your next step is to prepare what everyone is going to wear. Make sure you and your kids are going to be dressed appropriately for the weather. Remember areas deep in the forest or at a higher elevation are typically a little colder. Bringing along some extra coats, gloves, hats in your backpack is always a good idea. Kids can get pretty dirty while hiking so bring along another change of clothes for them to change into once you get back to your car. They will be clean, comfortable, and ready for a nap on the car ride home.
The next step in your hike preparation is bringing enough food and water for your family before, during, and after your hike. Some easy snacks you can stick in your bag are fruit and veggie pouches, pretzels, and cheerios. Anything that will stay good for a few hours. Having lots of snacks ready for your kids to eat can help ward off the hangry crankiness that can consume kiddos.
READ MORE: Healthy Homemade On The Go Snacks
What Baby Carriers Will Help You Make it Through
One of the most important pieces of hiking equipment you will need for hiking with kids is a good carrier. For babies, up until 3 months old, you should use a soft carrier with an infant insert so that your baby will be positioned in front of you. The next stage is to use the carrier without the infant insert.
When your baby is around 6 months old and has better head and neck control you can carry them on your back. Around the 6 month mark is when you could also decide to start putting your baby in a hard-framed hiking carrier instead of your soft one. It really comes down to personal preference, so maybe try a few hikes both ways and see which way you and your baby prefer. Using a carrier that is comfortable for you and baby can make a huge difference in helping both of you really enjoy hiking with kids.
Hiking With Toddlers Who No Longer Want To Be Carried
When your baby gets a little older you will want to start letting them explore outside the carrier. Sometimes, the little ones will start to insist that they want to walk more on their own instead of being carried. Allow them to slowly build their endurance and before you know it they will be comfortable walking for longer distances with you.
This independence usually sets in around the toddler “I want to do everything by myself” stage. When this happens it can be useful to set a routine. For example, let them walk a while and then let them have snacks while they’re in the carrier as a motivation for them to take breaks. This will allow you to pick up the pace so that you can stay on schedule.
It’s important to know that your kiddo is going to need breaks while hiking in or out of the carrier. Doing the same thing for a few hours can be tedious for a young kid. If they start to seem restless or tired don’t be afraid to find a nice little spot and let them sit on the grass or an old stump. You can take this time to also allow yourself to catch your breath and take a minute to enjoy the slow pace of hiking with kids.
How To Make It Enjoyable When It Gets Hard
Hiking with kids is so much fun. Watching their faces light up whenever they see an ant, caterpillar, or slug is priceless. The excitement of exploring the great outdoors is sure to be contagious. You will be able to see their minds growing as they experience the world around them. They will thoroughly enjoy asking questions, learning, and bonding along the way. These are all wonderful parts of hiking with kids.
Like anything with kids, it does have hard moments. The easiest way to work through these times is to be prepared beforehand with proper clothes, food, water, and equipment. Keep a few go-to’s in your back pocket (literally and figuratively) to help you and your kids enjoy the hike. Never underestimate the power of nursery rhymes, a game of I Spy, or hugging every tree you come to on the path. Use your imagination and get creative.
Think of ways you can help them learn about everything they’re seeing around them, like trying to find animal tracks or pretend you’re being hunted by a tyrannosaurus rex. Remember that sometimes your kids are going to have hard times and big emotions (you are too) and it’s important to remind them and yourself that hiking with kids is a great way to practice patience, endurance, help our bodies stay healthy, and enjoy nature.
Hiking with kids is not the same as hiking by yourself; it can be so much better. Sharing something you love with someone you love is a magical gift for both of you. Remember to make sure you’re prepared by picking a good hiking destination, packing proper clothes, enough food and water, and a wide assortment of tools in your mama belt to keep you all smiling as you race down those hiking trails together.
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