The past few years, I've really been trying help my kids see that there is a whole big world out there. I was not exposed to the beauty of our local state parks or exploring trails, caves and natural structures as a child. As an adult I've found such joy in these adventures. And I am further enjoying exploring and sharing these experiences with my three children -- including my toddler.

Hiking with a toddler may sound daunting, but it can be so much fun seeing new things together for the very first time or sharing your favorite locations with these big, curious eyes.  Here are some of my top tips for hiking with your young, toddler.

  1. Plan ahead; but be flexible. Make sure that the park or trail isn't too difficult for little feet. We try to find trails that are flat, have some slight variation and don't involve too much trekking in water. If you are taking a stroller, make sure that there are areas that are stroller accessible. Otherwise, you may need to briefly leave your stroller off of the path.
  2. Find sites that have a playground or beach at the trail head. It is always nice to have something to reward your toddler with after a nice, long hike. I find that we are able to keep momentum on our trek back to the trail head if there is a nice playground or sandy beach waiting for us to play at. This is just more memories to be made.
  3. Potty breaks. Get your child comfortable with using the pit toilet or going to the bathroom in nature. Review restrooms located at and on the trail. It is also handy to keep a potty chair in your vehicle for those remote locations without any restrooms.
  4. Make traditions. We enjoy looking for hiking sticks, counting turtles, stopping on bridges to peek through and look at the water.
  5. Explore more. Be willing to go off the path and explore things that they are curious. Your plan may not be their plan. Sometimes their curiosities lead to the best unplanned adventures and finds.
  6. Get playful. We enjoy making games and singing songs during our adventures. We have a "hiking song" that we made up to keep ups moving along. We go on "bear hunts" (just like the book). Play games like nature bingo, eye spy or wildlife scavenger hunts.
  7. Snack time. Always bring a water bottle and a snack. We keep refillable water bottles in our vehicle. And we always take a couple with us on our hike, even when no one thinks they will need it. At some point, someone is always complaining that they are thirsty. I also always bring a light snack along for our adventure back to the car - fruit snacks, trail mix or a granola bar. I also give my toddler suckers as a reward for exploring nicely in the stroller.
  8. Make a hiking bag. Decide which kind and size of bag is appropriate for you and your family and keep it in the car. I prefer a cinch bag or a fanny pack. But you may also like a larger backpack, depending on how long your excursions are. We always take it with us on our hikes and store items from our hiking bucket that we need for that specific trip.
  9. Stock your hiking bucket. Stock the car with a large container filled with: sunscreen, bug spray, blankets, towels, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, extra water, plastic bags for disposal of trash, a change of clothes, hats, gloves, hair ties and your hiking bag. You may also choose to keep play items for the playground or beach: sand toys and pails, sports balls, sidewalk chalk and yard games.


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