Nature and an unpredictable toddler can blaze a trail of impending doom, but that bold leaping, hopping, skipping running stroll into the forest is worth it. There is learning around every corner. There are endless sights, colors and opportunity for exploration. A hike through a child’s eyes makes every leaf, pine cone and squirrel much more exciting. The chance of seeing a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Blue Heron or Great Egret fly across the marsh is a lesson that many little ones trapped inside will never learn. There are endless imaginative toys and textures. Let’s go on a nature hunt; what a beautiful day; we’re not scared!
Running, hiking and biking are part of a daily routine in our house, and even with practice, these wild and free adventures can get a bit tricky. Winter months in South Carolina can provide some of the best days for hiking. The bugs are (mostly) gone, and the slight chill in the air is nice for a family exercise outing! Like most outings with little ones, success involves some preparation in the form of a plan, discussion, and packing.
Tips to help with your journey into nature with a toddler!
- Map out a plan ahead of time by talking to someone who has been to the trail or read about it online.
- Google the trail and directions, tips, etc. before you leave as GPS can sometimes be spotty in these areas.
- Pack tons of snacks, water, sippy cups, and even a couple books/toys for the car if the drive is further.
- If it is a nice day, take a break and have a picnic.
- Pack the bug spray/sunscreen no matter the weather because it always changes!
- Pack a Hail Mary snack or toy to get that kid back in the stroller and home ASAP.
- Pack one more for the car ride home if you don’t have that easy-going kid that loves the car seat (like me).
- Discuss hiking with your child. Talk about this exciting adventure. Read a book on hiking with them if it is a really new concept. What will we see? What do you think we might find?
- Make it a game: Who can spy the most squirrels? Who will see the first bird? What colors are the leaves?
- Hype the hike!
Break up the Route
- Allow time at the trail head to explore and pick up objects.
- Use a stroller or hiking pack to move through the trail for as long as they are willing.
- Stop at scenic spots for pictures and more toddler exploration.
- After getting a few minutes away from the trail head, allow more time for your little one to hike back on foot, so it isn’t an immediate transfer from stroller/backpack to car seat.
- Some kiddos might have no problem with this comfy stroll through nature, but again, I have a kid who doesn’t nap after hiking 5 miles.
- Try going in the morning before things start to go south.
- Start with shorter hikes when they are young, so that it is easy when they get older!
- Leave the dog at home if it is your first attempt. It is just one more thing to worry about. But, if you have a good dog, unlike our wild Springer that is constantly trying to hunt wild animals, then it can be added fun for the little one.
- The Shell Ring Trail is a nice short hike with great stopping points and no dicey areas (other than a board walk). The Canoe Launch (Part of the Palmetto Trail) has great bridges and scenic stops to break up the hike. http://palmettoconservation.org/palmetto-trail/