Hiking with children can a wonderful and fun family activity to enjoy together. Hiking with a toddler can be fun too but requires a little more planning than with older children. In this article I will share my tips for hiking with a toddler. We have three children and our youngest is nearly 3 years old now, so we’ve had quite a lot of experience heading out in nature with the kids.
- Plan Where to Go
When you are planning a hike with a toddler, you need to consider the walking route a bit more than usual. Choose a child-friendly trail that is not too challenging or rough and one where you don’t need to worry about your toddler wandering off a cliff… You can usually find out online which hiking trails are suitable for children so do a little bit of research before choosing your next toddler hiking adventure. Also consider the length of the trail as toddlers generally don’t want to hike for as long as adults. If you’re planning to take a stroller, check that the terrain is suitable first. We sometimes take our all-terrain stroller if it’s suitable and we know our toddler is likely to need a longer nap while we’re out.
For a shorter hike to do with toddlers, you could do a Gruffalo trail which most kids love! There are lots of great Gruffalo trails in the UK to explore.
- Take a Toddler Carrier
If you know your toddler will not be able to walk the full trail, I highly recommend a backpack style toddler carrier. We have a child carrier from LittleLife that we’ve used with all three of our children and it’s such a good thing to have when little legs get tired, or you just need to walk a bit faster for a bit. You can get them with a built-in bag for essential which is handy, and you can also get sunshades or rain covers if needed. If there are two adults on the hike, take turns carrying the toddler in the toddler carrier when needed.
- Choose the Time Wisely
If you can go for your hike at a time when your little one will not be tired, it’s more likely to be a success. They can of course have a nap in the carrier or in the stroller if you are taking one, but they are more likely to be in a good mood and enjoy the hiking and exploring if they’re not feeling tired. It’s also a good idea to avoid the midday sun in the summer.
- Make Time for Exploration
Most kids love to get outdoors and explore (if not, here are some books to inspire them!) so ensure there’s some time for your toddler to take the lead and show what she or he is interested in. Maybe they want to look at some plants, climb a hill or a small tree, collect stones or sticks etc. Children can also get involved in foraging ingredients for a tasty treat to enjoy together later. Collecting treasures like interesting rocks or sticks is a great way to keep little ones entertained too. When you get home, you can use these for craft activities such as rock painting or to make your own stick man or stick butterfly.
- Dress Your Toddler Right
Dress your little one according to the weather and opt for layers so that you can easily adjust. If they’re running around a lot, they’ll soon warm up but when spending time in the carrier, they will cool down a bit again. You don’t need proper hiking shoes for very young children but it is a good idea to have waterproof shoes for any wet weather or muddy conditions and shoes with soles that grip well.
- Don’t Forget the Essentials!
As always, when out with young children, you’ll need water and snacks for everyone (plus a few extra!), nappy change if applicable, sunscreen and sun hats when it’s sunny and hand sanitiser. I also pack a change of socks and trousers for my toddler in case she falls over in a puddle or gets really muddy! It’s always a good idea to have a small first aid kit on hand too.