I have logged a lot of miles hiking with little kids. My daughters have trekked all over the Pacific Northwest—sometimes on their own two feet, sometimes riding in a carrier. And as a mom who has weathered toddler meltdowns and reluctant preschoolers and little kids who just don’t want to hike anymore, I’ve learned a few tips along all those trails.
Yes, hiking with little kids can be challenging, and you won’t get to go at your pre-children pace. But hiking with little kids is also rewarding and super fun!
Learn from my many trips to plan a fun hike for the whole family—and avoid those mid-trail tantrums.
Tips for hiking with little kids
- Give them the map. Pick up a brochure at the trailhead, print a map of the trail or hand them the hiking book. Kids love to navigate—and they’ll feel so grown up pointing out where you are on the map (even if they’re completely wrong!).
- Let them choose the route. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, let your kids pick which direction to go when there’s a fork in the trail.
- Go at their pace. Hiking with little kids means you’ll be going slowly much of the time. You will probably have to stop and investigate every interesting leaf, and that’s ok. Start the hike with the expectation you won’t get far so you’re not frustrated when you’ve only made it a quarter-mile.
- Engage their senses. Ask your kids what they hear, feel and smell in addition to what they see. They’ll learn to tune into the world around them without the distractions of the city.
- Take breaks. Little legs have to take more steps than you or I, so they get tired! Make stops a part of your hike before they get to tantrum mode.
- Give them a camera—with a limit. Set the timer on your phone for a few minutes, then hand it over with the camera app open. They’ll love taking pictures just like they see you doing. You may end up with a keeper—or just a bunch of blurry close-ups of dandelions. And either way, you’ll discover what captures their interest and imagination.
- Play “I Spy.” Playing a game that involves them in their surrounding is fun—and it can distract them when they’re getting cranky or tired.
What tips and tricks do you use when hiking with little kids?