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Hiking with Toddlers: Food, Prep and Beyond

adventure hiking Apr 24, 2018


He threw dirt at multiple people's dogs, almost got hit by a mountain biker and killed every bug we found.

Today's hike was totally normal. 

If you are a parent of a toddler, you are well aware by now that you basically have zero control of your child. 

When people give me dirty looks for the crazy things my kids do while hiking, I just wanna say, you know they're actually in charge of me, right?

Maybe we should just stick to outdoor cages. 

But seriously, despite the chaos that can ensue, my best days as a mom are hands-down the ones spent on a trail, eating dirt with my kids. 

Today, we started off our week with a hike near Littleton, Colorado on the Grazing Elk Trail.

At one point my little guy took off his shoes and acted like he owned the place.

My adventure loving mama heart was proud. 

And because of the expeditionary school he goes to, he's very curious to look for critters and plants out on our excursions. I think that's what makes hiking so fun for him. 

He found a caterpillar, lady bug and a few others creatures and thought they were just the coolest things ever....and then promptly killed them all. 

If you are wanting to start exploring more trails with your little ones, which I highly recommend, here is the advice I have:

1. Don't tell them you are just going for a walk/hike, make it more of an adventure

What I mean by that is call it a nature hunt or a bug exploration mission, etc. If they have a bigger purpose behind the hike, they are much less likely to whine and complain. 

They can take their own little backpacks and collect different things they find (sticks, flowers, pinecones, bugs, etc). 

2. Do it consistently and start small. 

You might have one child who thinks hiking is the greatest thing ever and another who makes the entire experience dreadful. But the more you do it, the more "normal" it becomes. 

We have found that the consistency pays off in both their physical endurance and enjoyment of the activity. 

You may only make it .03 miles the first time, and that's totally fine. It's about the kids getting outside and exploring so enjoy the slow pace if that's what is making them happy. 

3. Be prepared. 

With the elevation and 300+ days of sunshine here in Colorado, we avoid exposed hikes like the plague in the summer month, sticking to more wooded/shady areas and always having sunscreen, rimmed hats and long-sleeve shirts on hand. 

You also need plenty of water, snacks and appropriate shoes.

We've been unprepared for a few spontaneous hikes here and there and we never got very far due to our lack of planning. 

We keep a hiking bag packed at all times with snacks and water so we can head out the door last minute if we choose. Packing the bags with little kids can almost take as much time as the hike so do it ahead of time!

Here's a run down of our basic list:

  • sunscreen
  • 2 L of water
  • lots of snacks
  • comfortable hiking shoes
  • cool, long-sleeved shirts for extra skin protection
  • rimmed hats
  • sunglasses
  • first aid kit 
  • extra undies/pants in case someone has an accident

4. Go with friends. 

Especially with kids, they seem more pleasant when they have buddies around. 

They can throw rocks at each other and talk about how good the dirt tastes. 

5. Bring all of the food. 

I mean, food is really the ticket to everyone's happiness, right?

So bring their favorite snacks to pull out when you just can't take their attitudes anymore.

And in all seriousness, not having enough food for a 2-3 mile hike can even make an adult feel lethargic and cranky so it's especially important you have food to keep their blood sugars up and muscles sustained. 

Some of our favorite foods to bring on hikes (for both adult + kids):

6. Find a trail with water. 

If you can find a trail that has at least some form of water, the kids will love that and want to go back (even if they hated the walk to the water). 

Bring some wading shoes if it's summer time so they can walk in it without stepping on sharp rocks. 

I promise you they will throw rocks in the water until they are blue in the face. 




I could probably give you like 100 other tips but I'll stop there for now!