Hiking with toddlers is extremely rewarding especially if you love to hike! I remember vividly when my oldest daughter hiked her first hike without ever stepping foot in a carrier or a stroller. I had my youngest on my back. It was an amazing experience especially since we had zero tantrums. However, tantrums do happen and toddlers feet become filled with lead as they decide to stop moving their feet. For those times when you need to get those feet moving to finish the hike or preventing the lead from accumulating in the first place here are 6 ways to motivate your toddler while hiking:

Play a game: Playing a game on the trail can help motivate your toddler and makes hiking fun. See a list of games on my post Hiking games for toddlers.

hiking games for toddlers

Food: Make sure your toddler is well fed before the hike. Also feed them little snacks on the go to keep up their energy. Lately our toddler has been eating her lunch before hiking!!! That means I am bringing double the food so we still have some snacks throughout the actual hike.
Fully belly equals a happy toddler

Bring a treat: This is definitely a separate category from food for a reason. A treat does not have to be seen as motivation but rather something that makes hiking special. Enjoy the treat while taking in a view or at the end of the hike. Our daughter loves cross country skiing. She also loves that we stop for hot chocolate. It is all part of the outdoor experience. Another little note: I have been hearing a lot of parents say that they bring some sort of treat during the hike to help entice their toddler to keep moving. I one time had sausage and near the end of the hike was running a little bit ahead of my oldest daughter. I then would tell her that if she came to me and she would get some sausage lol! It was not only helpful when it came to finishing the hike but we also finished it without having any tantrums.

Hot Chocolate treat!

Sing songs: Singing songs can help a toddler enjoy the hike. Even better is if you pick silly kids songs. Singing the songs will help them focus on the songs rather than hiking. Some song suggestions include: Great Big Moose, Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row Row Row Your Boat, Hokey Pokey, If Your Happy and You Know it, Etc

sing songs

Tell a story: Our daughter loves talking and pretending our hike is part of a story. Throughout the hike we might pretend we are saving someone and have to cross bridges or fly on a dragon to a rock in order to collect a key. The stories have endless possibilities and these motivate her to hike. This idea came from hiking with our friends that  have kids and one of them is a few years older than our oldest daughter. We used to hear the dad near the end of the hike playing jack and the beanstalk up the mountain with his son. Their son Fee Fii Fo Fum’d all the way up to the base of Black Tusk Mountain when he was only 5 years old!!!

Tell a story

Hike with friends: It does not just have to be their friends but can be your adult friends too! Often kids get distracted by others and become better hikers. kids are also less likely to complain if they see others their age hiking. Our daughter has hiked up to 4 kms with friends and she absolutely loves hiking alongside her grandparents. It is extremely helpful for us because they help keep her entertained throughout the hike.

Hike with friends

By Annika Mang
By Annika Mang
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5 thoughts on “Tips for Hiking with Toddlers”

  1. Now multiple toddlers there is the challenge. My have a treat back fired as in I want to eat my cookie and my brothers cookie and I am going to throw a tantrum because I am not getting them both. Hiking with two year old twins has its own challenges. I guess my bigger tip would be in timing a hike right and choosing a trail that everyone can handle. Mornings work best for us, wide trails without steep embankments, having set limits on distance and elevation changes in case you do have to carry one or both tantrumming toddlers through the woods. Love reading articles like this so many wait until there kids are so much older to take a hike with their kids

    1. Oh man I totally have that with my girls where they are constantly wanting/fighting each others things. Next time bring 4 lol?! That is a great tip as well. Trail choice is so important. Making sure the trail is safe and that you can manage the kids on the trail is important. Then making sure you can get out of the woods safely in case of tantrums etc.

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