CAN YOU TEACH A TODDLER TO HIKE?

Our inaugural summer hike, last Friday, at Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.

Our inaugural summer hike, last Friday, at Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.

I remember hiking The Chief about 10 years ago — long before the notion of having a family had crossed my mind — and running into two parents hiking the 1.5 kilometre “First Peak” trail with their young daughter. Not only was the little girl hiking this steep and technical trail on her own two feet, she was doing so with great enthusiasm, excitedly discussing her favourite parts still yet to come. I remember being struck by her skill and stamina at such a young age (she was four!), and how much her parents trusted her to behave safely on this difficult and potentially dangerous mountain terrain.

Fast forward a few years later: I was labouring my way up the infamous Grouse Grind, when I was (rather humiliatingly) passed by a young boy with a backpack, who appeared to be alone. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked him his age. He was 10, it turned out, and he’d been hiking The Grind since he was little, but this was his first time being allowed to do it on his own.

These two children (and their parents) left such an impression on me, that all these years later, they are my inspiration for introducing my own child to hiking at an early age.

With Oliver weighing in at 30 pounds and counting — and our Deuter kid carrier adding anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds, depending on what I’ve packed for our adventures — it seems about the right time for Oliver to start moving some of his own body weight on the trails.

In the city, Oliver walks at least a kilometre — sometimes as much as 2.5 kilometres — each day, and his stamina is increasing all the time. I am more and more often making a point of leaving the stroller at home, and of encouraging Oliver to continue walking a little longer when he tires and asks to be carried.

So, can you teach a toddler to hike? To walk moderate distances on varied terrain? To follow instructions and behave safely on a mountain trail?

I don’t know, but I’m going to try!

For the next four months I’m going to take Oliver for a hike every week, with the aim of gradually increasing his endurance and cooperation. At this point I’m not going to set any specific goals (e.g. completion of a certain distance or a particular trail), as I want to keep this endeavour fun and free of pressure, but that may change depending on how he progresses over the coming weeks.

We started last Friday with a hike at Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. Oliver hiked just shy of a kilometre on his own, and I carried him in the pack whenever he was too tired to continue, or if we needed to make quicker progress.

Here are some photos from our little adventure:

IMG_7185

Oliver exclaimed, “A big, big tree!”

One of many sticks (and rocks) he collected along the way.

Just one of many sticks (and rocks) he collected along the way.

Checking out ancient logging industry artifacts along the trail.

Checking out some of the ancient logging industry artifacts along the trail.

Gaining confidence and independence.

Gaining the confidence to venture off independently.

Stopping for a well-deserved rest and snack after hiking the first half kilometre.

Stopping for a well-deserved rest and snack after hiking the first half kilometre.

Enjoying the beautiful view.

Enjoying the beautiful view.

Have you ever tried to teach a toddler or preschooler to hike? 

6 responses to “CAN YOU TEACH A TODDLER TO HIKE?

  1. Thanks for the inspiration! My son is 19 mo and weighs in at about 32 pounds and we want to get out hiking again since the weather is finally starting to turn for the better. I’m 4 months pregnant with twins so I can’t carry him very long so if we’ve wanted to hike my husband has to use the carrier. When the weather dries out this week I’m going to take him to the Nature Center and we’re going to try some hiking! I think he’s going to love being able to touch and explore everything 🙂

  2. Wow! Thanks for givi me some hope! I’m so glad to come across your positive blog. I’m sick of people telling me I can never do this or that again because of my daughter (currently 13 months). I can’t wait til she is a bit older and we can go hiking!cheers!

  3. I love this post. You are so lucky to live somewhere where it’s so easy to take off for a hike. For me it’s impossible as any hiking trails are 2 hours away and that’s only if you leave early enough so as not to get traffic. But I am going to try and do this once a month atleast once my boy gets a little older! Thanks for the inspirations!

  4. We enjoyed just over a 1km hike with our twins (19mos) up to a snow shed and back last weekend. They managed most of the way on their own, with a couple of pick-ups from us. We also took them camping (we have a pop-up trailer, which made the whole experience like a home away from home). Our oldest (now almost 6) started hiking closer to when he was 2 with us. Kid-friendly trails mostly. We picked up a book titled Great Hikes with Kids or something similar, which rated the trails in terms of difficulty, gave directions, etc. We did the walk up to the snow shed on a whim and were really pleased at how well the kids did.

    • Wow, that is SO impressive! I wonder if siblings help to keep each other motivated? Although I guess it could also work the other way too, sometimes… 🙂

      I took Oliver to a different trail today, and while he was rather whiny (in retrospect, I realized he was just hungry), he walked quite a fair distance, and he managed to keep up a much faster pace than usual.

  5. So happy I stumbled onto your blog! I 38 years old and 16 weeks pregnant. Rock climbing and outdoor running, hiking, cycling are my life. Not only is important for my sanity to keep exercising but it is part of my (and my husband’s) value system that we want pass onto Bun. The first trimester was a dark place for me because I was so tired and sick but now in the 2nd I am back outside rock climbing and hiking again and feel like I am ready to tackle the winding road of parenthood ahead of me. My OB has been supportive of my climbing/cycling but some of my friends and co-workers shake their heads and question my judgement. I feel confident about my activity choices and I love reading about more moms and moms-to-be that are also getting the action they need.
    Thank you!

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