How to Hike with a Toddler

How to Hike with a Toddler

Once we became parents we were determined to still spend lots of time outdoors. We’ve kept on camping and we’ve tried to keep walking. We don’t do the miles that we used to, but it is entirely possible, and sometimes even enjoyable, to hike with a toddler.

Obviously, all children are different, and I’m certainly not an expert, but here’s a few tips that help us.

Firstly, cover the basics: food and warmth. Take plenty of snacks and then take some more. Even if we are just going on a short walk I still carry a big 33l rucksack, and it’s mostly full of toddler food. Also, make sure your toddler is dressed appropriately for the conditions. We’ve been out a couple of times recently when it’s been very cold. I made sure Finn had his Kozi Kidz base layer on, plus a hat, gloves, warm socks, fleece and snowsuit.

A snowsuit is great for the winter

Likewise, in the summer make sure your child is protected from the sun and is kept cool with light, cotton layers.

If you want to cover some miles, the next thing you need to think about is a carrier. Finn is at that awkward age where he’s getting very heavy and although he’s capable of walking, it’s never in the direction that we need to go. The phrase ‘herding cats’ springs to mind. We have been using our LittleLife ‘Voyager’ since Finn was a few months old and it’s served us very well.

Our carrier has plenty of storage and offers Finn a lot of support-handy when he needs a nap!

It is, however, getting a bit too heavy and bulky now that Finn is growing at a rate of knots. That’s one reason I was very excited to hear about the revolutionary Freeloader, which I have recently reviewed (see here) . It is definitely worth going to an outdoor store and trying a few different options. Also, it is crucial that you take the time to make sure that your carrier is fitted correctly. Your back will thank you!

So we’ve covered the basics of how to hike with a toddler, you’ve actually made it out on a walk, now you just have to keep them entertained. This is easier said than done. Even Finn, the calmest of children, is prone to a tantrum or two.

Like many two year olds, Finn is prone to a few tantrums.

In order to keep him happy, there are a few games we like to play. Firstly, a stick will keep him busy for a while, especially if I let him chase me. I also spend quite a lot of my time stomping about the countryside pretending to be a dinosaur, complete with sound effects. As if that wasn’t scary enough, I even sing a lot as well. I find that songs with actions, such as ‘if you’re happy and you know it’ or ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ work best as I can keep him moving along. God knows what people think when they hear us coming!

Now Finn understands simple commands, we play games where I tell him to ‘stop’ and ‘go’ and  do big/small/quick/slow steps etc. I’m making the most of it while he finds this amusing! When he gets a bit older I want to try easy scavenger hunts with him, i.e. find something green/furry/hard/soft. There are lots of ideas on pinterest for things like this.

Finally, a recent development has been Finn’s love of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. He makes me read it over and over again, he even knows all the actions. This is a great book to reenact while out walking. If you haven’t read it, you need to! It’s a lot of fun swishing through the grass and squelching through the mud.

Do you hike with a toddler? What are your tried and tested tips?

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  • Hillexplorer Hillexplorer February 22, at 08:24

    That Freeloader carrier is exactly what I need. Shame about the price – it may take me a while to save up for one!

    • The Helpful Hiker The Helpful Hiker February 23, at 08:10

      Yeah, I know the feeling. I just can’t believe there’s nothing in the UK that is similar as it is such a good idea and is working really well. I’ll have to keep looking!

  • Jonathan Jonathan March 16, at 16:03

    Once ours had outgrown the carrier, we use a lightweight pushchair – not the fancy off-road ones as they are far too big and heavy, but actually a cheap little one. It was small enough for most footpaths. and light enough to lift over styles. Used it until it literally fell apart.

    One big hint – pulling is far more effective in mud and on rough ground than pushing!

  • Katey Katey April 05, at 20:41

    We really love hiking with our daughter, also two. We’ve been using the “Bear hunt technique” too. I also find telling her something exciting we’re going to such as a river to grow stones in keeps her interested. I agree snacks and then some are needed- kitty had a full melt down in the middle of a field because we’d run out of raisins!


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