View Cart | Contact Us | Print Page | Sign In | Join PAMP
Articles and Musings
Blog Home All Blogs
Search all posts for:   


View all (250) posts »

Hiking with Toddlers…for the Lazy

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Updated: Monday, August 22, 2016

So you’ve decided to go hiking with your toddler.

Believe it or not, hiking can actually be a lot of fun with a toddler, especially with all the options for trails we get to enjoy here in the Bay Area. We have access to a wide variety of parks with redwoods, rolling hills, beaches…all within a relatively short drive.

You may ask: “Why don’t I just sit in the backyard, let my toddler poke a few sticks in my eye, go watch a couple nature documentaries, and call it a day?” Well, here’s a list of reasons to encourage (which is a euphemism for “to guilt”) you to venture out into the great outdoors:

  1. It improves eyesight. Apparently myopia is on the rise and it appears to be due to children spending too much time indoors. Studies have shown that children need at least 3 hours of daily outdoor time to be protected against near-sightedness. Being in nature is also a workout for your eyes as they shift focus from near to far and vice versa.

  2. It develops a habit of being physically active. Instead of getting exercise from the weekly gymnastics class, or chasing the cat, a nature walk can provide more of a challenge for developing muscles and coordination (i.e. mastering uneven terrain, jumping over logs, going uphill/downhill, and even the occasional slip or fall).

  3. It may be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. 

  4. It reduces stress. Okay so maybe your toddler isn’t stressed out, but children are like little mirrors of their parents’ moods and when you are anxious or tense, your child senses it and usually adopts that behavior. So sometimes letting your toddler set the pace for the nature walk is as much of a benefit to you as to your child.

  5. It stimulates mental development. A child’s brain is constantly developing new connections, and nothing is better than a three-dimensional environment where they can touch, look, listen and smell their surroundings to stimulate the creation of more neural pathways.


But how? For some parents, going anywhere involves packing as if they were going on a week-long excursion through the remote tropics. And yet I can barely remember to put on pants before I leave the house (this may have happened once, I will neither deny nor confirm it, though).

In my defense, whenever I take my 3 year old out, it’s usually an impulsive decision – a quick stop at the park between errands – and I typically forget the essentials, such as sunscreen as the sun blazes down and I can actually hear my skin sizzle, water, spare diapers, snacks… etc. My son would walk up to strangers and beg for food like a starving little gypsy child.

And while I’m not the best person to advise how to go hiking with a toddler, I have learned ways to get around my mental lapses and come up with some basics. For example, I keep spares of anything essential – sunscreen, wipes, diapers, small water bottles – everywhere: the car, the stroller, the carrier, my purse… And while it does make for more clutter than if you had just one bag that you can take along (which I will undoubtedly forget), at least I’m somewhat covered.   

Here are some tips for when you want to get out into nature:

  1. Try out a backpack carrier before purchasing. I am on the tall side with a freakishly long torso (most shirts end up looking like half-tops on me), so my back and shoulders learned the hard way how important it is to have a carrier that fits properly. Make sure the base rests on your hips so that your shoulders aren’t carrying the brunt of the weight. I also suggest getting a pair of hiking poles to keep your balance on rocky or hilly terrain because the dry loose gravel can be pretty slippery. The poles can also save your knees as your kid gets big enough to challenge the weight limit of the carrier.

  2. Research the trails. If you forgo the carrier for the jogging stroller, just make sure the trails are stroller friendly. I’ve actually had a wheel or two pop off while I was coming down a pretty rough and steep slope. The great thing about jogging strollers, though, is you can keep a spare stash of supplies in the back pocket somewhere (a baggy with wipes and a spare diaper, a hat, sweater, sunscreen…) and forget about it.

  3. SNACKS! Unless my son has the random urge to actually get out and walk around, he tends to prefer to be carried or pushed in a stroller, and he will generally only last about 15 minutes before he starts complaining. But once I started bringing snacks to nibble on, he seems content to quietly sit back and watch the scenery.

  4. Poison Oak is EVERYWHERE. I always encourage my son to do some exploring even if it means going at an excruciatingly slow pace while he insists on scrutinizing every piece of debris, but I am notoriously bad at identifying poison oak despite the little rhymes about how to recognize it (“leaflets three, don’t touch me ,”… or something like that). I usually just assume any low leafy plant is poisonous. The leaves are green in the spring, and then start turning reddish in the summer until they become a bright red or pink in the fall. 

  5. Ticks. The best way to avoid ticks (and poison oak) is to follow the common rule of hiking and stay on the trail. Ticks are usually in higher grass, but it is always a good idea to check around the sock line and the scalp after a hike. When you check your dogs, ticks tend to settle in or around the ears, or between the toes and armpits, so those areas are worth special attention. If you find one that has already bitten and you are concerned about Lyme disease, check for more info here. And here's how to remove a tick

  6. Engage, engage, engage. I had illusions of going on long nature walks with my son and that he would get a thrill out of hiking as much as I do, but more often than not, he would prefer throwing rocks at a puddle of water for an hour, or ask to go home to watch Curious George. It may seem like a futile attempt, but it is important to engage your child with nature by pointing out everything to them and talking about it, and eventually their interest will grow. Let them collect some souvenirs such as leaves and acorns, balance some stones in a pile, take pictures, touch everything (almost everything, that is) and talk about the textures, and share some of your knowledge of the local wildlife or plant life (and if you don’t know much, like me, look up the info together when you get home, or try joining some local ranger-led tours).

Most importantly, if you enjoy yourself, your child will enjoy it, or at least learn to enjoy it with time, especially if you follow up the hike/nature walk with a trip for ice cream or a special treat at a café.

Alix Pora is Engagement Director for PAMP, baby herder and imbiber extraordinaire.

Tags:  activities 

Share |
Permalink | Comments (0)