As soon as our son was born, I fantasized about the days when he would be able to start hiking with us. We love hiking and a lot of that was unfortunately put on hold during my pregnancy. We got a baby carrier, put the baby inside, and off we went to our favorite hiking spots in Dallas. He loved being close in the carrier while we were hiking and hardly made a fuss. When our son was about 14 months old we started letting him explore outside the carrier. And that’s when the challenges really began…
Hiking with our toddler was…a real challenge…The patience required could quell anyone’s desire to attempt any future hikes. But…don’t give up!
Our son is very strong-willed and loves to forge his own path. I’d let him explore the leaves and rocks along the way, help him navigate difficult spots on the trail and pick him up when he’d get tired. The hikes started to look more like playing in the dirt, broken up by extended carry-a-thons, than hiking. Hiking with our toddler was proving to be a real challenge. He got distracted very easily, tired early and wanted to nurse multiple times on the hike.
The patience required could quell anyone’s desire to attempt any future hikes. But we told ourselves, “don’t give up!” We knew that the more we exposed him to the experience, the better we’d all get. And that soon we would be enjoying the trails like we used to and discovering new ones with our child. We were determined!
We came up with a plan…
We started with baby steps and began hiking on an easier “numbered” trail and made a game out of finding the numbers. They were spread out as indicators for a guided tour of trees and wildlife. This was a huge success! We would say “look for the next number! What is it?” and when we saw the sign we would celebrate finding it and saying the number. Our son loved this game and he soon started searching for the numbers every time we went on the hike, running to them and exclaiming “ONE”, “TWO”, “THREE”! He began learning his numbers one hike at a time, a wonderful example of playful learning at work!
I held his hand as much as needed and helped him navigate the harder spots. I knew he was frustrated and wanted to do it on his own.
Even though he hiked a longer distance, he still had trouble stepping down and up the ledges and hills. He would step off with only one foot instead of jumping with both feet off the ledge of the rocky steps and nearly fall each time. I held his hand as much as needed and helped him navigate the harder spots. I knew he was frustrated and wanted to do it on his own.
We came up with another plan…
We set up a little obstacle course in the garden for him to practice on. We encouraged him to navigate the rocks circling the trees to help his balance as I held his hand… his balance improved. We took out a small exercise trampoline and put it in the living room for him to jump on…and his jumping improved. We put out large rocks in the garden and celebrated each time he jumped on or off… and his dismounts improved. Then winter came and the hiking was put on hold, but he continued jumping any chance he got.
Get outside and explore nature with your children, the benefits will last a lifetime!
Then Spring finally came and we ventured out on our first hike in some time. I was curious how our son was going to do with all his physical improvements and new movement skills. Considering he is only 30 months old, I was amazed! He hiked the trail with such enthusiasm, scaling every root he saw, jumping over the tree stumps, hiking up and down the rough terrain with ease, jumping off the higher step-offs and sweetly asking for help when he needed! We are so proud of him and his accomplishment. And…he still loves to read the signs and point out all the numbers!
Get outside, take a hike and explore nature with your children, the benefits will last a lifetime! We will be hiking this weekend! Hope you will too.
Written by Vivian Pflanzer