When I was pregnant with my child, I had people tell me I would not be able to hike much anymore. A hike would require a babysitter and the cash that comes with it. Around the age of 7 months, we started taking him on our hikes in our baby carrier. Oh my gosh, it is so easy. Wearing a child, though heavy, is incredible. We could keep a quick pace and go up steep hills. I recommend it times a million to anyone who is thinking about it.
Our baby is now a strong willed toddler who throws a colossal fit when he is told to climb into his hiking backpack. He is also starting to get close to the weight limit. We have to start actually hiking with our toddler. It has been interesting to say the least. Since July, he has been working on his hiking, and he is learning a lot. We are too.
(Note: we’re not really using images in this post because I don’t like to put up public images of my toddler and also feel weird using pictures of other peoples kids. end note.)
Your hikes that used to take an hour has just turned into three hours. At first, this is super stressful. Like, I just want to finish my hike. But, do you know what this allows you to do? It allows you yourself to be mindful an to stop and smell the roses.
Kids will be kids, and part of being a kid is an innate need to do two things: 1) Throw rocks into water, 2) Pick up and carry sticks. When they are bored of the stick, they’ll toss it off trail—or drop it where they stand. Either way, something as simple as a stick is sometimes just a distraction enough to motivate your toddlers pace.
Go ahead. Try. No, but seriously, encourage your toddler not to pick every plant they pass. Some are okay, especially if you see which one before hand and know it’s not nettles, ivy, or a toxic mushroom they are about to eat without hesitation. But encourage them to look, admire, smell, even touch, but that leaving them there to grow is the right thing to do.
If your toddler is anything like ours, every trail puppy is met with a gasp and an enthusiastic, high pitched “uppy!”, and every squirrel is greeted with equal excitement. It’s all too easy to reply with a “yeah, that’s a squirrel” and move on, but better yet, take your mind of the trail ahead and enjoy the present moment right along with your toddler. I mean, come on, it’s a puppy!
Toddlers are hyper observant. I can’t tell you how many times my toddler has abruptly hooted is best Barred Owl call and it’s stopped us in our tracks. Did he actually see an owl? Possibly. He does seem to spot any and every toy, stuffed, or decorative owl in the world no matter it’s location (like through a tinted window into a gift shop 250 feet away). Toddlers pick up on color and movement and are more in the present that us. When your toddler stops in their tracks and looks around, stop with them. IT might just be an acorn—every acorn—but it might also be a well hidden frog, or an incredible insect. You never know! The trick is, meet their inquisitiveness and wonder with the same enthusiasm they have and you will make their day.
Hiking with a toddler doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid all the fun parks. Just be prepared. If you don’t know what the trail might be like, if there might be steep ledges, cliffs, and sudden drop offs, it’s a good idea to where your carrier for just in case. It’s also helpful if your midway back on a trail and your toddler decides their legs no longer work.
Climb the tree, stand on the rock, jump over a log. In other words, loosen up and let out that inner child. Nature is a playground. Your toddler knows it. You know it. Have fun. Take breaks, soak your feet, splash around. Hiking isn’t about getting from point A to point B, it’s about the journey.
As a teenager, your child might not enjoy looking back on all of the trips you’ve taken and how cute they were in the Jr Park Ranger vest you made them wear, but some day they’ll learn to appreciate it and will want to look back with you. Besides, pictures are a great way to capture memories, moods, and the feelings of places you’ve been and the amazing things you saw together.
Toddlers, being toddler, are clumsy and will get muddy, and dirty, and grassy, and sappy, and every other kind of “ucky” imaginable. And that’s okay! Let them. After all, there is no better way to learn than getting your hands dirty.
For some, hiking is all about fitness. For others, the challenge. For still others, it’s an opportunity to observe and appreciate nature. Hiking with a toddler is about all of the above and more. It’s about patience. It’s about living in the moment, appreciating the little things, finding wonder in unexpected places, and getting your hands dirty. You’ll see things you’ve never noticed before, pause to see movement beneath your feet that was previously invisible to you, admire rare birds and squirrels alike, and finish the trail having had a new and beautiful experience, even if it’s a trail you’ve hiked 100 times before—and it’s all thanks to your toddler.
If you have a story about or from hiking please do not hesitate to share. We will totally feature your story and pictures. To contact us with your story, message us on Instagram, @teacherwhohikes. You can also message The Wild Life on Facebook.