Updated: Mar 29
Hiking with toddlers is both an incredible challenge and a remarkable delight. I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but both statements are true. At this age, our little ones are not yet old enough to go the distance, but independent enough to put forth tremendous effort. We hiked long before our children entered our lives and we are happy to report, it is absolutely possible to hike with babies, toddlers, school aged children and teenagers. Listed below we provide a few tips and tricks to help you make the most of your next family hike.
1. Bring a Carrier or a Stroller:
When your children are still very young, it is essential to bring along a carrier or a stroller. Their little legs are ambitious yes, but they simply don't have the stamina to go for long treks. Encourage your children to walk as much as they would like (in safe areas of course) but let them know you are happy to carry them or put them in a stroller should they need a break. Offering them a snack while you give them a rest in a stroller is a great way to encourage a short rest!
A special word on carriers and strollers. We loved our Ergobaby carrier. It was as small, soft-sided carrier that packed easily and was comfortable for our children. Easy to pop out at any time during the hike, we adored that carrier. We never bothered with big, metal framed carriers that felt both heavy and bulky.
When we mention strollers for hikes, we are always referring to sturdy, three-wheeled, all-terrain strollers. We had a B.O.B. stroller and used it until our children were well into Kindergarten. Sturdy, robust and comfortable, it was one of the best purchases we ever made!
Just as the equipment you carry is important so are the shoes. Toddlers need comfortable hiking shoes with good tread, just like we do!
2. Start Small:
If your child is starting to test their hiking legs, start small. We would recommend you build up gradually. Start with a 1 - 2 km stroll and see how they do. Increase your kilometers as your children grow more robust and capable. Congratulate your children for their efforts and let them know they are doing a good job. Remember, you are establishing a powerful relationship between your child and the natural world. This is a relationship that will bring them joy and meaning for years to come!
3. Make it Fun:
Children love to have fun while hiking, so make your hike a great adventure! When our children were really young, we played games such as I Spy, we gave them their own scavenger hunts, binoculars for spotting creatures and we always brought bubbles along. By making their hiking adventure exciting, they are more apt to hike longer distances due to the distraction. Oh, and don't forget playgrounds, ponds and animals. Nothing is more rewarding to a child than arriving at an Alpine playground, or searching in a pond for tadpoles or frogs. Allow your children the opportunity to discover magic as they go!
4. Pack Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks:
Children love snacks and as they hike longer distances, they may require a bit of refueling. We always carry snacks with us and a special treat, in the event the going gets tough. We packed snacks our children were capable of managing alone, such a fruit, fruit pouches, granola bars, crackers, cheese sticks, etc. For treats, gummy bears were a huge hit and provided inspiration to keep going. We never distributed them all at once. A treat here, a treat there did the trick!
Please do not forget the water. Bring a water bottle exclusively for your little one, not only to track their water consumption, but to give them autonomy too!
5. Be Wise:
Don't plan a long adventure after a poor nights sleep, or if your child is having a particularly tough day. You will all be miserable and there is nothing worse than a miserable trail family! We also suggest you reach your destination before nap time arrives.
We always liked to front load our days, which meant being ambitious in the morning and reserving the afternoons for fun and relaxation! By starting out relatively early, you also beat the mid-day heat, which is essential for the entire family.
6. Bring it with You!
Kids are unpredictable. Our kids have been covered in mud, water, poop and other questionable liquids and goo while hiking. We always make sure to bring a change of clothes (including underwear and socks), baby wipes, and a plastic bag. If it can happen, it will. Be prepared! We would pack a hose, but that's just not possible.
So, there you have it. We aren't providing a foolproof method, that would be ridiculous. Children are unpredictable at best, heck, who are we kidding, adults are too. But if you read this list and everything goes wrong, that's OK, the important thing is you tried. Try again. Maybe not tomorrow, give yourself time to recover, but do get back out there. We promise you it will be worth the effort. Some of our happiest and craziest days have been spent exploring the Alps. Those days and moments have defined our family for the better. More families memories have come from wild times on the trails and to be honest, I wouldn't want it any other way!
If you still need inspiration, pick up our book. We put years of hiking experience into those pages!
*Our books are available in English, German and French!