I started hiking with my three older kids when they were well past diapers and temper tantrums. As long as we had red vines and chocolate everyone was happy to wander through the woods. We counted tree rings and learned which berries were edible. There were always reminders to stay on trail, and not cut switchbacks, but most days went really well. And then, there is hiking with a toddler.
When Samuel was a baby it seemed so simple to pack him up and head outside. As long as I had diapers and dressed him for the weather, we were ready to go wherever I chose. Even after he turned 1, and stopped nursing, we could still make good time, and hike harder and higher trails. We enjoyed climbing small peaks, long backpack trips and snowshoeing to remote cabins.
And then, Samuel turned two, and things quickly started to change.
I remember the first time I was met with extreme protest. I had loaded snacks and water into the pack, buckled the carrier onto my waist and bent down to pick up Samuel. Immediately he said “No, I walk”. This part wasn’t entirely new. He had started to express his independence a few months earlier, so I agreed to let him walk, for a little while. After a good 15 minutes, and 1/16 of a mile out of our 4 mile hike, I stopped to load him on my back.
He started yelling “NO, NO, I walk!” I tried talking calmly, I tried bribing him with his favorite snacks, I even resorted to candy, but it didn’t work. Feeling a bit defeated by a two year old, I took a deep breath and decided to let him walk. We ended up jumping over every root, climbing every rock, and eating the entire stash of chocolate. We also completed the 4 miles, together, each on our own two feet.
Our following treks out together didn’t go much different, and I soon realized that this was going to be our new norm. I also realized that I was going to have to adjust my expectations.
So how was I going to keep getting us outside, and not resign to hiking at a snails pace? That is were I had to get creative!
- I bring snacks, lots of snacks. I always pack more than we need, and make sure I have what he’s into at the moment (it changes often).
- Bribery. I am not above bribing him to move faster by walking with an open bag of M&M’s.
- We play games. I can often be found on the trail pretending to be a train. Usually when Samuel is finally on my back (after lots of protest) I become a train engine and he is the engineer.
- Sing! We sing action songs. Once Samuel is safely strapped in, I sing (sorry hikers) our favorite action songs. There is something about being on mom’s back as she pretends to be a tea pot and “tips over” that gets him laughing every time.
These are just a few of the things I have found that work for our family. It can be pretty taxing getting a two year old to cooperate. Getting out would definitely be easier if we stuck to short, easy trails, or just went to the park to play. And sometimes thats what the day calls for, but I have to admit that there is nothing quite as rewarding as what we both get when we step off the beaten path, and choose to explore a little farther.
I would love to hear back from all of you on what you use to get your kids moving on the trails. Please leave a comment below.