5 Tips for Hiking with Young Kids

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For some families, Saturday mornings are dedicated to big breakfasts, for others, it’s a day synonymous with morning cartoons. I’m not much of a cook and my two-year-old daughter is completely incapable of sitting through a tv show, so in our house, Saturday mornings are for hiking. We all know that adventure awaits in the great outdoors…but then again, with a two- and a four-year-old, adventure awaits almost anywhere we go right now.

Hiking with Littles - A Survival GuideTips for Hiking with Toddlers

My husband and I both love being outdoors, so we started hitting the trails with our kids as soon as they could safely ride in a hiking backpack (which was actually the very first piece of baby gear we bought when we found out we were expecting—not a onesie or cute little socks, but a used Osprey child carrier).

With about four years of experience now, here’s what I’ve learned:

Bring snacks.

Lots and lots of snacks. It may be the most versatile piece of parenting advice out there. Snacks can be a game-changer for car rides, long waits, and hiking, too! Of course, as with any outdoor activity, plenty of water (preferably in a fun but lightweight water bottle) is a must-have, too.

Don’t be afraid to stop for breaks.

Hiking with kids is certainly not about setting a land speed record. Little legs tire quickly, and it’s way easier to eat all of those snacks when sitting on a log than when trying to step over it.

Teach your kiddo to look but not touch.

This falls under the category of “things we learned the hard way.” My kids love nature of all kinds—where I see a weed, they see a beautiful flower. And they love to bring flowers to their mama. In addition to the importance of leaving no trace when in the woods, it’s worth remembering that nature has defense mechanisms, too. One full-body outbreak of poison-something-or-other later for my sweet little four-year-old, and I only hope you learn the “point, but don’t touch” lesson, too.

Make it an adventure.

This little nugget is completely my husband. While I think a nature scavenger hunt is a perfect way to add a little extra excitement to a hike, he takes it up a notch. When he hikes with the kids, it’s a full-on pretend jungle exploration, complete with songs and make-believe binoculars.

Consider staying home sometimes.

Wait, what? Hear me out. This is a piece of advice for moms. I love hiking, and I love watching my kids discover and explore the world around them. And while a walk in the woods is about as good of a family outing as there is, it’s also a great dad-only activity. Kids tend to open up more when physically engaged, so when I opt-out, it’s true quality time for my husband and kiddos, with a big bonus of a solo Saturday morning for me.

What are your favorite tricks for hiking with little ones?

Check out other ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Georgia: 

Favorite Nature Places in North Georgia
5 Waterfalls to Visit in Georgia
Atlanta Nature Center Guide: Easy Outdoor Adventures For All Ages