Hiking is a great activity to engage toddlers for many reasons; it contributes to their physical and educational development, it strengthens the bond between you and your tot, it almost always induces the peaceful (sometimes elusive) nap, and a hike helps to relieve your stress – if you are properly prepared for a hike with a toddler. Here’s how you prepare for a hike out with a toddler in tow.
- Do your homework and find a park that has trails you can easily manage if you had to carry your tot and a small pack a good portion of the way. Sometimes toddlers just don’t want to walk, that doesn’t mean the hike is over, only that they may feel uncomfortable or have grown tired. Decide which trail to hike and print out a map.
- Proper footwear is a must. Toddlers should have shoes with flexible, but durable soles with a tread. Their shoes should have a round toe and fit their feet well while wearing socks.
- Dress for the occasion. If ticks are a concern you do not want to find one on your toddler, for this reason socks tucked over pants with a long sleeved shirt tucked into the pants is ideal.
- Consider bug repellent. The ones with DEET such as OFF! have a reputation as being the most effective and wide ranging but Avon’s new Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard line offers DEET-free options and receives rave reviews.
- Don’t Forget the Sunscreen. You can make your own, all natural version after finding a recipe and a trip to your local health food store.
- Pack for the occasion. I include:
- A light snack for my tot such as a mix of nuts and dried fruit, crackers, or an apple
- A bottle of water
- Wet wipes/napkin/tissue
- Sun glasses or hat
- A field guide
- A bug discovery kit. I have found them for $1 at a dollar store, $3 at the grocery store, and up to $12 at other stores.
- Map of the park
- Cell phone or whistle
It is important to realize and allow that it is going to be a slow hike. Toddler enjoy both running full tilt and walking slowly. Along the way tots are taking in their environments by stopping frequently and playing with something they found in nature. Take this opportunity to use your field guide to expand your knowledge and impart some to your tot. See if you can identify poison ivy and other common but painful plants and animals in your local area so you can steer your child clear of it. Teach your toddler a common flower or animal. They are proud to demonstrate what you taught them as you continue down the trail and upon return trips. Hiking can be fun for you and a toddler, and the more you go the easier it will become.