Contrary to most mommy blogs that you read, I think toddlers are awesome. I have enjoyed the little years with my children so much. My little guy is three and growing fast. I have to soak up all those little-armed hugs that I can while they last. Toddlers are amazing because they are cute, they have an ever-present sense of wonder for the world around them, and they think their parents are the best people ever. I know they can also be tough. The key to enjoying family activities with toddlers is preparation.
Preparing mentally for a hike with your Littles is just as important as your physical preparations. First, make goals in small increments. Don’t set your heart on reaching the summit or finishing the loop of a trail if the distance is not realistic for your little one. As you hike along, think of each small portion as its own accomplishment. There is a fine line between overestimating what you child can hike and underestimating it. Second, realize that you will be moving at their pace. Their short, adorable little legs cannot carry them as fast as yours can carry you. Be content to move slowly, stop to smell the flowers and admire the bugs. Third, carry their water for them. You can work up to your children carrying their own supplies over time. If you carry the toddler’s water, it’s less likely you will be carrying the toddler. Doing anything with Littles can have its frustrations. However, if you have realistic expectations, everyone will have a great time.
Preparing physically for a hike is vital also. First make sure that you are carrying enough water for you and your child. Second, have a basic first aid kit. Toddlers fall down all the time. You don’t want a scraped knee to halt the whole hike. Third, carry extra socks for you and your child. You may not need them, but it’s good to have a back up pair if there are puddles or your feet get too sweaty. Lastly, think about good footwear for your little ones. It feels like a bad investment when children grow so fast. Don’t feel obligated to break the bank though. We mostly survive on hand-me-downs and deals at Goodwill which have served us well. Trust me when I say that a little prep goes a long way!
This summer we went back to Vermont to visit Tim’s cousins. One day we hiked Mount Pisgah which is a gorgeous mountain that forms the east side of Willoughby Gap in Westmore, VT. While we didn’t make it to the summit with Calvin, we hiked about four miles round trip. He hiked the whole time even though he asked to be carried a few times.
Here is how I applied the principles above and got my three-year-old to hike almost four miles: a few times when he wanted to be carried I have him a break and a drink instead. I was carrying his water in my pack, so we had to stop to get it out anyway. A few other times that he asked me to carry him, I let him know that we were almost ready to head back down the mountain. On the way back I kept telling him how close he was to finishing the hike all by himself. Each of these motivated him to keep going. Nothing beats the sense of accomplishment for your kids when they meet a goal!
We got some amazing photos from a lookout point called Pulpit Rock. Tim’s cousin is a budding young photographer that helped us out with that. For more of his work follow @redhenphotography on Instagram!
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