Toddler Hiking Inspiration: Helping Little Ones Enjoy the Trail

Being two or three years old on hikes is tough - those little legs can't keep up with adults or even big kids and they tire easily. Looking for ways to help your toddler engage in hiking and have fun on the trail? Here is some inspiration from our own hikes and forest time:

  • Bring a Toy
  • Pack Snacks
  • Make small goals
  • Allow for Discovery

child flying a toy car in the woods

Familiar toys bring an element of comfort to new places. Kids also learn to look at their toys in new ways, and to play out of the box, creatively.

Although toting around something extra may surely end in another thing for you to carry, it's worth it to build responsibility - just remember, it happens slowly! Shared responsibility means when you are their caretaker you help them care for their things. Don't leave their toy in the woods because they set it down and wondered away. They'll learn to care for it as you do.

One of our favorites for toddler hikers:
candylab cars (minis are the perfect size for their pockets, and the full size cars are still light enough to be carried in a small pack - though we've found they don't leave hands until our little ones are tired out! These wooden cars will ride just fine in on fallen trees and hard dirt, though we recommend keeping them out of the muck.

Pack some snacks to help keep up blood sugar, energy, and motivation! Just like most grown ups ("if I get out early, I'lll have time to grab coffee") toddlers are very food motivated. That's okay! Nutrition is important and staying fed on the trail (when you're busy burning calories) can be fun!
Make your own - nuts, trail mix, carrots and celery are all great, easy trail food - or check out our list of prepackaged trail and trip favorites! 

Make small goals.
It's okay if you aren't hiking as far as you can. Or even as far as they can. Sometimes our goal needs to be visable for little ones - and that's quite short! As they grow and gain experience on the trail and in the outdoors, they will not only be able to walk for longer but they will just take off! You'll know when they are ready. 

Allow for Discovery
Small goals help them grow and also allow room for discovering their world. When reaching for a new and maybe difficult goal, put a reward at the end - a walk to the river means a place to toss small stones, you like tossing stones, remember? A hike over the bridge will bring us back to our car, but we will stop at the bridge and watch leaf boats go under. I love watching leaf boats with you. 
Speak the love of the outdoors into their adventures and they will copy.

See you out there!