Thursday, June 26, 2008

How to hike with toddlers

Melissa in New Jersey writes: "You have inspired me! I'm going to hike on a trail! Now can you please explain to me in detail how to do it with twins! Please help me get over my fear of losing them in the woods or falling off of a cliff!"

I have a feeling these fears keep alot of people from taking their first hike with their little ones. Fear not, it can be done (and quite successfully I might add) All it takes is a little research, a little prep work and most importantly, the right attitude.

First you need to find yourself a hike to attempt. The web is an infinite resource for hikes all over the globe. Sadly, I did have a hard time finding alot of websites that catered to your area of New Jersey. Quite frankly, your state park website
sucks. They give no details about any of their hikes and I think the whole thing needs a major overhaul. That's right. I said it. Improve your stinking website New Jersey State Parks! It may greatly improve your attendance and thus provide you with more income. Just a thought. I did find a bunch of good hikes in your area on my old tried and true website All you have to do is type in your zip code and a bunch of hikes will come up with reviews and ratings. For Melissa these came up:

Just click on the trail and read the description. I tend to look for key words such as EASY, FLAT, and WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE (that guarantees a stroller friendly route). Look at the reviews. People will say if they are great hikes for kids. Fire roads and paved trails make pushing the stroller easy as well. Don't get discouraged if the distance on the trail is long. Just go as far as you want and come back. And just because a trail isn't paved doesn't mean you can't bring a stroller. Well maintained trails usually offer a pathway for your stroller. Look for something that has great scenery and wildlife. Little ones will get just as excited about a squirrel as they will a deer so don't feel like you have to be on a trail to find the endangered eight toed wombat to be a success. Another great resource is the local hiking book. I personally like Foghorn Outdoors publications but they don't make a hiking guide for New Jersey so thats a bummer. I did find 50 Hikes in New Jersey and New Jersey (Best Hikes with Children) on Amazon and they may worth checking out.

So you found a trail you want to attempt, now what? Now you need to pack that backpack and load the car. My necessities include: camera, water, snacks (lots of snacks that they can walk and chomp on work best), diapers, changing pad, bags to pack out diapers, changes of clothes for the kids (they will get dirty or pee through a la Ben or get wet), and directions (printed out from the internet or a copy of my hiking guide). If you are hiking without a partner, then consider bringing those monkey backpack leashes (I got mine at Target). I like them because you can leash them if they are being naughty but unclip the leash from the backpack if they are doing well. I think you will be alot more relaxed if you do bring either your husband or a friend along with you because then you can each concentrate on a kid. Bring the stroller for sure if your hike is longer than a mile round trip. You can use it to carry your stuff when the kids aren't in it and you can use it to contain the children when you are in a area which you feel unsure about having them running around, when they tired, or when they are just plain bad!

When you get to the trail keep an open mind. Your boys may want to hang out and poke things with sticks or throw rocks. If you don't get as far as you planned or in the time frame you had in mind, that's okay. Of course the goal is to get the kids to walk the trail so sometimes they do need a little coaxing along the way. Encourage them to explore their surroundings. Teach them how to smell flowers. Point out birds or animals. BE AS EXCITED ABOUT THE WORLD AROUND YOU AS THEY ARE. Its contagious. Don't worry if they get dirty. As a matter of fact consider it a failure if they come home spotless! Kids should get dirty out in nature. Its all part of the experience.

I hope these tips have helped. If you or anyone else has further questions I am happy to help. I can't wait to hear about your adventure!


debi9kids said...

Hey Shar! You have me laughing about NJ. haha
NJ sucks! Plain & simple!
Although, I have to say i have found and walked MANY trails in NJ. You just have to go places and try them outTwo of my favorites:
Batsto is a GREAT place to start. Birch Grove Park is another excellent place for hikes.

MamaBriggs said...

Thank you so much! I feel so special that you did a post just for me! You really are an inspiration, I'm going to link this post to my blog so other sjerseyians can read it! I will go hiking soon, it's a goal, and now because you told me how to I have no excuse!

Angela & Albert Fontenot said...

Okay so I really love this site! I am so impressed. I really like the idea of a column where readers can post questions and you can respond. "Ask Shar"
I am really tempted to post you a question regarding how I can manage my kids at the town pool without waiting for Albert to come home but sadly, I dont think its possible! Already with two of us there,the lifeguard had to help Brice on our first visit of the summer!
love the blog Shar. It is very inspiring!