How to Hike with Kids, Toddlers, and Infants – Tips and Advice

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If you are Mom or Dad to a handful of young ones, then you might just want to take them outside to burn all that extra energy out of them. They are sure to need it. Hiking is an excellent way to do so. You can walk through over hills and down valleys, admiring the scenery and teaching them about the plants you see. It is bound to help them develop a love of nature. First things first though, you need to learn how to hike with kids, toddlers and infants in this tips and advice guide.

It is not like any regular old hike. There are certain precautions you need to take to keep them safe and ensure a fun, memorable experience. A hike allows the opportunity to form a bond with nature. With some fresh air in their lungs, a child will be sure to be inspired, so let’s get started.

10 General Tips to Have a Good Time

1. If you feel they are not ready, do not go. You have to rely on your gut instinct for this one. A hike can be a lot for a young one. Play it safe and keep it a little beyond someone’s limits. You also do not want to go without them. Otherwise, they can feel left out. Find a trail that everyone can handle. There is bound to be one near you.

2. Scout out the trail beforehand. You want to familiarize yourself with the trail before setting out on the group hike. You can then know the twists and turns, where to take a break and where you should keep your child on a tight leash. Not all trails will be nice and flat. Be sure to consider trails with restroom breaks and rest stops.

3. If your youngest can handle it, then it is a good trail for everyone. Your youngest is the one with the least stamina. Do not expect them to be able to handle 15 miles. If they are unhappy, then no one is happy. You want the trip to be memorable and fun.

4. Go early. I personally like to go on hikes in the morning on Saturdays because it is my day off and I have plenty of energy then. Usually, the first thing we do in the morning is what we have the most energy for. As I have learned, “seize the morning, seize your life.” In the morning, your children will have the most energy for the day. Life is a lot lest stressful when you get somewhere early.

5. Keep them warm, dry, hydrated, and fed. Hikes can drain the body. They take a lot of energy. Be sure to pack plenty of food and water for the day. Also, you do not want to get too wet, so be sure to bring a towel and wrap your kids up to keep them warm.

6. Keep an eye on the weather. Conditions can change in an instant, so you want to be sure to get out quickly if need be. For kids, sudden weather changes can really take a toll on them.

7. Include plenty of rest stops on your trip. When you give people the opportunity to rest, even for only a short while, it gives your kids the chance to catch their breath. After running through the woods and blazing a trail, you need to recooperate for the rest of the trail ahead. Everyone will be in a better mood for it.

8. Triple check the gear list. A hungry camper is not a happy camper, so be sure you have all the gear you need with you. This includes wide brim hats, bug spray, sunscreen, blanket, first aid kit, weather appropriate clothes, toddler/baby toys, food, water, and anything else you might need.

9. Make it fun for everyone. One of the goals is to develop a love and appreciation for nature. If your kids are tearing at each other and nagging at you to leave, then it is not a good time for anyone. When everyone has a memorable, enjoyable experience, then everyone will want to do it again in the future. In a previous article, I talked about camping games for children. If you need some ideas on how to have fun, the article will be sure to help.

10. Rediscover your inner child. You are exploring with them. This is an opportunity to foster deeper, more loving connections with your child. You can explore with them enjoys the different wonders you see along the way. Do not forget your parental responsibilities, but also live in the moment from time to time. You need to enjoy life too.

Infants (0-12 months) – Be Sure to Bring the Carrier

A newborn is very fragile, especially in that new month of life, so don’t let a newborn (less than 1 month) onto the trail. They are very susceptible to all that the world can throw at them. Play it safe and keep them at home until they are old enough to hit the trail with you.

For any baby between 1-6 months, you need a front carrier. These children are still getting used to the world, so they need all the support and love they can get. If they need help, a bottle, or a change, they will let you know in a heart beat. Between 6-12 months, a back carrier should be fine. They make the journey much easier.

“Rock a bye baby on the tree top. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.” In short, hit the trail in tune with your infant’s sleep cycle. For infants in your carrier, the rocking motion will put them to sleep. They are going to crash like a sleepy camper. Be sure to keep the hike in line with your infant’s sleep cycle, so they won’t keep you up at night.

Toddlers (1-5 Years) – Be Ready to Carry and Chase

Unlike infants, toddlers can walk and run about so you have to be ready to not only carry, but also chase. Unlike grade schoolers, they are not quite old enough to walk all the time, but not so young that they need to always be in a carrier. In short, they are in between, so let’s get into it.

Be prepared to get dirty and wet. Toddlers have a lot more energy to run around. They will give chase after any dogs they see and careen into that puddle you told them to avoid. Be sure to bring a towel in case they fall in. It will make a world of difference. Your toddler will be a lot less soggy for it. An extra pair of clothes will help out a lot. But especially some fresh socks, a clean pair makes a world of a difference after trekking through a puddle.

Undoubtedly, your toddler will get tired at the end of it all. You may have to carry him or her back home. Fortunately, many carrying backpacks can take up to 60 lbs. If you have a carrier that large, then it will be sure to help you. Know how far you are from your trailhead. Because the farther you go from the trailhead, the longer you may have to carry your toddler back.

At this point in their lives, toddlers want to be like adults. Toddlers want to carry their own “gear” so give them something lightweight to carry like a small backpack and light jacket. It makes them feel like they are all grown up and part of the group. They become an explorer when they have their own gear, fostering their curiosity.

In wide open, flat, hazard free areas, let them run within eye shot. Toddlers have a lot of energy to burn. If you want them to have a memorable experience, then it will help to let them burn all that excess energy. Be sure to keep an eye on them though; it will keep them safe.

Grade-Schoolers (5-12 Years) – Time to Loosen the Leash

This is the time when you can loosen the leash a bit. Your kids are older now and need more independence. It is up to you how much free rein you want to give them.

At the first hike, the rule is to always stay within sight of Mom or Dad. If you do not see them, you cannot do much to help. After which, the rule can change to hike ahead a bit and then wait until Mom or Dad catch up. Also, make sure they do not hike past a trail sign or trail split. At those times, you can get separated from one another.

Make sure to give them a whistle. If lost, blow the whistle three times and stay in place. Many backpacks also have a whistle built into them. A whistle will do a lot to keep them safer. It acts as a homing beacon when you are not around. They need to be ready for the time when you are no longer there.

They are also getting to the age where they do not just want to hang out with only their siblings. Be sure to bring their friends along. It will help to energize them. When a kid has their friends around, they can have a lot more fun, developing their bonds along the way.

I do not know about you, but I like to plan things out. I feel like I am in control and setting my own destiny. For your kids, involve them in the planning process. They will learn how to think things through from beginning to end, packing food and thinking about time. It helps to prepare them for adulthood.

When I was a kid, I could not sit still. If I did not have my attention on something, I would become bored out of my mind. I always had to keep my attention on something. With kids, they will love it if they learn about the world around them. This means teaching them about the plants, geology, animals, and history they see. It will keep them curious.

Final Words

Hiking is an excellent bonding journey. You get to see the awe in your child’s face when they experience their first sounds and sights of nature. Their faces light up. The sounds surprise and astound them. A crossing fawn startles them. With the proper knowledge by their side, you are bound to have an excellent journey together.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please do share this article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!

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10 Comments on “How to Hike with Kids, Toddlers, and Infants – Tips and Advice”

  1. Alex, what an amazing post.

    When we went to Hawaii, the “highlight” of our trip was going hiking with the kids. One thing I did before I left for our vacation was research little known hiking and sights in Hawaii. While most people lay on Waikiki beach like a baked potato, we hiked and saw things that 99% of tourists never see or experience. It was truly one of the highlights of my life and we’ve now made it a ritual to go hiking whenever we go on a vacation.

    I had never thought of giving my kids a whistle, but when you think of it – if my wife and I head off to the woods, that’s what we take. All it takes in a minute of turning your back for a kid to get lost in the woods and without a whistle, you might never find them and what’s it cost? Maybe $2. Wow…

    1. Dave, I appreciate the compliment on my post. It is always nice to get those. I am glad to hear your story about your trip to Hawaii. There are a lot of great trails to hike on the islands. I may be heading to Maui this Christmas. You are right about Waikiki beach. Not enough people experience the trails on the islands.

      Whistles are certainly an inexpensive and invaluable tool to give each of your kids. They do not cost that much, but so many people do not buy a couple of them. It saves you a lot of hassle when you play it safe and buy some whistles.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  2. Hi Alex,

    A great read and a great post.

    I used to love hiking and camping when I was younger. First going with my dad and then when I got to 14 I used to go with friends. We always had a great time, but were also very careful and respectful of the world around us.

    Now, being a parent to 2 boys, I love to take them hiking and camping and have done since they were young. I’m lucky that very close to where we live we have amazing countryside and woods which are ideal for hiking on a Saturday or Sunday (weather permitting of course).

    You list some great tips and I’ll be sure to visit your site again.

    Best wishes,

    1. Hey Michael,

      I appreciate the compliment on my post. I always aim for quality, not quantity. It is good to hear about your experience growing up. I am glad to know you were always respectful of the world around you.

      Trips with the kids do wonders for them. When you bring them along with you, they learn to love and to appreciate nature. I am glad to know you plan on visiting the site again.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  3. Hi Alex.

    This is a great article. I would love to be able to go on a hike with my grandchildren. You have given us such a great idea. It would have to be with the older ones, because I know I could no longer hike and carry a child on my back or shoulders. LOL

    Each tip you have given is logical and seems like it would be such a good help. So, thank you for taking the time to do this research and get this information out to the public. I really appreciate it.

    All the best.

    1. Hey Wendi, I appreciate the compliment on my article. It is always my hope with these articles that people are inspired to go outside and see the world around them. You definitely want to play it safe with your back Wendi. You only ever get one back, so have your back and keep it safe.

      When writing an article for people, it is important to be thorough. Everyone wins when the article was well constructed. It keeps everyone safe and ensures a good time.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. Hi Alex

    Thanks for a sharing these tips. Hiking with young ones is such a lovely adventure if planned correctly. I took my nephew and niece on hiking once and providing them with a whistle really saved the day. That bit of your article brought back fun memories. Great content

    1. Hey Anthony, I appreciate the compliment. It is good to hear you gave a whistle to your nephew and niece. A whistle really makes a difference. I am glad it brought up good memories. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. Great article Alex. Hiking with young ones is a fun experience when planned correctly. I can totally relate to being prepared to chase. My nephew and niece always make me around after them. Having a whistle for me is a must-have requirement because my nephew always wanders off to God know where. Everyone cracks up when he blows the whistle though. It is all good fun. That bit brought back fun memories. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hello again Anthony. I appreciate the compliment on my article. You have to be ready to catch up to any adolscent because they really do like to run, so it important to give each kid a whistle. They do a lot to keep them safe. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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