5 Tips for Hiking with Kids

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I have always loved hiking and so does The DAAAD, which is one reason why I love him. We both knew that a life in and a love of the outdoors was something we would want to share with our children. We have learned a lot along the way and continue to learn. If you have little ones and would like to start hiking with them, here are five tips to help you reach hiking bliss.

1. Lower Your Expectations
and then lower them again, and one more time for good measure. If you are expecting your toddler who has never hiked to complete more than a couple miles or to hike at anything faster than a 30-40 minute mile, then you are setting them up for failure. Even though my 4 year old is able to hike 6 miles, I still head into each hike with lower expectations so there are no resentments if it doesn’t all goes as planned.

2. Know Your Child’s Limits
and then push them just a little bit each time. Depending on what level of hiking you hope to achieve with your kids someday, you kind of have to look at each hike as training for the next. Right now we are working on getting the 2 year old to walk a little farther and ride a little less each time. Our 4 year old is working on his pace as well as how much he can handle carrying on his back. Setting goals for your kids can help them push their own limits as well. Our 4 year old knows that once he’s fully potty trained and can carry more weight, then he gets to go on an overnight backpack trip with MAAAM and DAAAD.

3. Lead with a Carrot
Some parenting experts might disagree with this one, but it’s a freaking tip not a hard and fast rule, so if you don’t like it, don’t use it! On particularly longer hikes (3 miles or more) we give little treats along the way to help keep unmotivated kids moving. We recently did a 6.2 miler, and roughly ever 15-20 minutes offered the kids a gummy bear, with the promise they would get another if they made it another (??) minutes. We don’t use it all the time, but it comes in handy and can be a real sanity saver.

4. Get Comfy
Whether you are baby wearing or not, yours and your kids comfort is key to everyone enjoying themselves.  I still wear my 2 year old for the majority of all our hikes, and while I have tried hard structured hiking backpacks like the Kelty Kids, I’m personally more comfortable in a soft structured carrier like the ergo or Toddler Tula.  The only downside to chosing a carrier like this is a lack of carrying capacity for when it’s just the boys and I hiking and DAAAD isn’t around to be our pack mule.  I found this awesome water bottle sling by ChicoBag that holds my water, keys, phone, and a small snack. Shoes are a source of contention in our household as I chose none or minimalist sandals while DAAAD prefers more industrious footwear.  We do our best to encourage the kids to make the best choice for themselves that will result in comfort and safety. 

5. Have Fun!
The easiest way to ensure we all have a good time when we go hiking is to have fun.  If I don’t feel like hiking I am not about to drag my kids out onto the trail so we can all be miserable together.  Try to pick hikes that have a point of interest that you know will be enjoyed by all. We have hiked to some fun and funky rock structures, native american rock paintings, and all our kids favorites, some kind of water feature.

How each of these tips applies to you may vary on where you are at with your kids in your hiking adventure. Please feel free to comment with your own hiking tips!

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