Hiking with a toddler
Hiking can be tricky with a toddler. On most hikes it is a delicate balance between keeping them entertained, doing a hike that isn't overcrowded with other people and pushing them too far. The hiking back packs they make for children these days make for one comfy ride for them, but if your toddler is anything like ours he likes to get down and explore on his own two legs. We have taken Jasper on several dozen hikes and each time we learn a little something more to be better prepared next time. And if I had a dollar for every time someone said they wanted to be carried up the mountain in a back pack like we have for Jasper, I would be filthy rich!
1. Know your limits. This not only applies for you, but them. If your child does not like to be contained for more than an hour or two then don't pick a hike where it will take six. If you can barely handle carrying your child around Target then maybe hiking with them on your back isn't the best idea.
2. Test it out- first. Go for a walk around the neighborhood with your gear on. Remember you will not only be carrying the weight of your child, but the weight of your pack and anything else you choose to bring.
3. Get the right gear. Don't skimp on good gear for your child. The thought that they will only be sitting there is false thinking, your child needs rain proof, wind proof, sun proof more than you.
4. When in doubt snack. I can't tell you how many times the only thing between us and a total meltdown is a bag of craisins. Often when we stop for lunch Jasper is too distracted by the scenery ie. sticks and rocks to pay much attention to the food we are trying to get him to eat.
5. Keep your child contained. If possible, keep your child contained until they have had the chance to eat their lunch. It is much easier to get them to eat if they are sitting there then running around looking for the perfect stick.
6. Pick a safe, flat spot for all breaks. It is much more relaxing if Jasper is able to run around on a nice flat area instead of trying to maneuver over rocks and roots. Children want to be free, but they also need to be safe.
7. Age appropriate. If Jasper had it his way he would walk along the trail at his leisure. However, we realize he is still too small for that and instead give him plenty of time to run around during our lunch break or at a park once we are finished with our hike.
8. Throw the schedule to the wind. Typically on Saturdays, we know Jasper is going to miss his nap or take a shortened version of it in the backpack. Even if he sleeps forty minutes on the trail, that is forty minutes of blissful silence and restorative rest for him. We try not to stress about him missing his nap all together and usually end up putting him to bed a little earlier when he does. Something I have said time and time again is how important it is to not be a prisoner to your child or their schedule. They certainly need their sleep, but you also need some fun.
9. Try, try and try again. Jasper like any toddler has his own opinions about things. Sometimes he will wear his hat, sometimes his sunglasses. Either way, we always try to get him to use these.
10. Don't forget the sunscreen. Even when it is cloudy it is important to put on your sunscreen. Also, unless it is super warm we put him in long pants for added protection.