Tips For Hiking With Baby- The Family Hike

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This article made possible by the generous support of We Made Me Baby Carriers.

 

Whether it is out in nature in a park or an urban hike, venturing out for walks together with your family can become a regular part of your family routine. Though it can seem overwhelming to get out of the house and tackle even the most mundane activities with a baby and young children, with a little bit of planning and having realistic expectations, hiking with babies and young children can easily become a favorite activity for the whole family. 

I initially started family hikes because I needed to get moving and never could find the time without kids to get in any kind of effective workout. My only goal was to get my own body moving while still taking care of my children. Walking around our neighborhood was fine but got boring and I wanted some diversity, so I started looking for hiking trails in our area. It didn’t take long for me to realize there were a number of other benefits to hiking for my whole family. 

Family hikes are an opportunity for shared family fun experiences, expose your children to the world around them, normalize physical activity for your children, give you the chance to be physically active while being with your family, and connect your family more deeply with nature and/or your community. Hiking with my children has helped me find energy by getting moving and helped my kids burn energy by getting out of the house. Sleep has improved with regular hikes, our knowledge of our community has grown, and as our screen time has been reduced, our communication with each other has grown. I love the conversations that flow during hikes with my older children and I treasure the exploration that feeds my younger children’s curiosity, and there’s nothing like my baby’s calm happiness being close to me as she observes the world around her on our walks. There is something in particular about being out in nature, walking and soaking in fresh air away from the expectations of house keeping and other responsibilities that is like a deep cleansing breath that helps me tune in more and be the parent I want to be. Whether it is a new hike we’re trying for the first time or an old favorite, venturing out with the family has brought us closer together and been a centering part of our week.

In the years I’ve been hiking with my family, there are a few things I’ve learned to help make it easier and more enjoyable for all of us. If it is overly complicated or isn’t fun, it isn’t going to happen. Here are my tips for getting hiking with baby and small children.

  • Know where you’re going. Paved path? Woodsy trail? Shade? Full sun? Waterfalls? Water? Buggy area? Steep incline? Bathrooms available? How long is the trail (double or triple the time if you have toddlers or small children walking too)? Look up as much information as you can on any designated hike and hiking area. If it is a public park most have information on their website and Yelp reviews can be helpful in knowing what to expect including difficulty level, terrain, and amenities. Dress appropriately (if you’re breastfeeding, be sure your clothes make that cool and easy with babywearing!) and select the right type of footwear. Higher elevation may be cooler, be prepared with sunblock (if you need it, put it on before leaving the house), hats, insect repellent, change of clothes, etc.
  • Babywear/Toddlerwear. Maybe even preschoolerwear. Select a carrier you are comfortable using, can adjust, is breathable, lightweight, and supportive. If you’re not sure what kind of carrier that is for you, see if you can visit a local babywearing group and if they have a library, try several options. Join social media groups to learn more about options. Keep in mind that one person’s favorite carrier may not work for you, and your favorite may be considered “undesirable” by someone else. Baby carrier preference can be very individual.
  • Comfortable shoes. Typically sneakers with thick breathable socks for everyone are a safe bet but some hikes will be better with hiking boots or hiking sandals depending on the terrain. When it is hot, hiking sandals on a paved path are a great option for breathable comfort and support.
  • Share the load. Pick a carrier that works for you and your hiking partner if applicable so you take turns babywearing. My partner, my teens, and I can all use the We Made Me Venture carrier so instead of us bringing different carriers along or having just one person wear her, we take turns with her in the Venture. Be sure the one being worn is comfy too, knee to knee support in the seat of the carrier will help their legs be more comfortable, avoid irritating their sensitive skin, and make it a smoother ride for your baby or toddler.
  • Hydrate! This is important for everyone, any time but particularly for young children and if you are breastfeeding and when it is very hot. Water bottles that fit in back-pack pockets or hip holsters, camel-back systems, and fresh fruit can help your crew stay hydrated.
  • Fuel. Have easy snacks you know are favorites. A hangry toddler out in the woods will be misery for everyone so be prepared. Remember there may not be good places to stop on nature hikes, and leave the place in the same condition you found it in.
  • Community. For inspiration/ideas, join a local hiking group such as Hike It Baby.
  • Be in the moment. Family hikes are less about exercise and more about taking in the setting and spending time together. Enjoy it for what it is. Babywearing can certainly make it more of a workout, though be sure you are aware of your posture and engage your core to help you avoid straining or injuring yourself. With toddlers and young children, play games such as I Spy or a nature scavenger hunt can help hold their interest.
  • Know your limits. Even a short hike is worthwhile. Get started with something that isn’t going to physically push or stretch anyone in your party, including you. Pick a time of day that is already an energetic time and won’t interrupt a nap. Be realistic and flexible. Take breaks as needed and keep the rest of the schedule that day open. If it doesn’t go well once, don’t give up, try a different type of hike at a different time another day and see if that helps. Respecting your limits is key to having fun!
Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 21 years.
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