Tips for Happy Parents Hiking with Toddlers
The Difference 1 Year Makes
Hello! I am beyond excited to join the GAM team as an ambassador. As a working mom, it can feel challenging to connect with other moms and get practical tips for getting outdoors across work, naps and meal times. My daughter is turning 2 this week and during our hike this past weekend, I was reflecting on how different she is and how much I have changed perspective in our adventures are from last year. There is a wealth of blogs, podcasts and videos for how to make toddlers happy – but what about parents? Below are some tips learned through trial and errors 😉 of how parents can enjoy the adventures.
Just to set the expectations for this post – I am not an “epic” adventure mom. I admire the women who camp with their infants and go backcountry hiking with young kiddos. That has not been my experience. I am much more focused getting outdoors, in any setting, for any amount of time.
Tips for Happy Hiking Parents of 1 Year Old
1.Set realistic trail expectations. Pre-kiddo, I would hike 8-12 miles for my “adventures” I had to learn to start small and keep the goals to 2-3 miles and build based on the weather and how we were feeling.
2. Pick locations where you AND toddler can safely walk. I kept picking trails that were rocky and had significant inclines, which is really dangerous for a 1 year old to walk on. The next future blog for Colorado front range trails that are good for adult and toddler paced hikes.
3. Bring a carrier (whether it is a wrap, structure carrier or hiking backpack) that you can easily get toddler into and out of. Nothing gets old faster than getting them in an out of a pack that is complicated.
4. Go with friends. If you end up with a screaming and unhappy toddler 2 miles from the car, as least you won’t be alone. One of the first times I took a girlfriend and her toddler on a hike, her child was screaming. I was able to help her carry her back-pack while carrying Amara so she could juggle her kicking toddler. The roles have been reversed and it is very helpful to not be alone.
5. Recognize how amazing you are for just trying! I had more than 1 adventure I intended to get outside and it just didn’t happen. We ended up with tantrums in the car or stayed in the garage. Just yourself praise and recognition for trying and making some progress.
Tips for Happy Hiking Parents of 2 Year Old
Research or think through “games” to play while outside. This keeps them engaged and uses the outdoors as an opportunity to learn through play. Some examples from our hike last weekend include:
2. Find the rocks (the trails were covered in leaves, as we moved the leaves to find rocks on the trail so that we could safely walk).
3. Bring a bucket to pick up “treasures” – sticks, sand, rocks and anything can be a treasure. We then put the “treasures” back at the end of the hike.
4. Dropping leaves over the bridge into the stream. Watching the leaves float downstream is fun!
5. Pick a few go-to spots. As my daughter reaches 2, she now knows the names of the parks and areas we go to. It is easier to get her outside and bought into the adventure when she knows where we are going.
6. Make outdoor adventures a time for connection. I am a working mom and my husband stays at home. My daughter has a stronger relationship with her dad and I have found that our adventures outdoors are our opportunity to bond. While my daughter goes on a walk daily with her dad, I take her to specific hikes and she has come to expect that when mom gets off of work, we go outside. If we can’t because of extreme weather, we still do something together.
7. Recognize how amazing you are for just trying! Two year old’s have a find of their own! They don’t always want to go on “your adventure” and not going can feel defeating. Tell yourself way to go, just for trying.
8. Finally tip for happy parents. Get outside without your kid(s). I used to try to fit my daughter into all of my adventures in an effort to re-center myself in nature. Getting outside with kid(s) is such hard work! It takes effort, planning and sometimes negotiations. Take the time to go solo, with friends or without your kid(s) so that you can still have experiences that meet your needs.