So you want to hike with your toddler…
Abort mission. Wait another 10 years.
Just kidding! This is the best time for the just-walking set to hit the trail. The outdoors is truly one of the best places to bring your favorite ball of chaos and unleash it. You don’t have to feel anxious they’ll make a scene (go ahead and scare the bears away, darling), or break the world around them (nature’s malleable that way).
You’ve entered the great equalizer. Nature’s a catch-all for pent up energy, an illustrious void for running, screaming, tumbling. But it’s also an amazing energizer, a mood lifter, a wellspring of liveliness when you’ve lost your spark.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Here’s the catch - bringing that tiny wolverine out beyond the black stump ain’t gonna be convenient. From the jump, it will require you to plan more, prep more, and pack more before you’ve walked out your door.
It ain’t convenient to keep a vigilant lookout for rogue acorns tucked into cheeks. It ain’t agreeable to keep your neck on a swivel looking out for roots as those small legs run headlong down the trail. And it’s downright inexpedient to stop AGAIN (have we moved at all!?) just to stuff our pockets with ANOTHER pinecone.
There will be tears. There will be bribery.
V has been known to plop down in the middle of the trail and refuse to move. We cajole, we threaten, we plead. Sometimes we’re the victors, yet most often, V comes out on top, with a treat in hand or with the promise of a game in her honor.
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But there are those slivers of clarity that make it all worthwhile. Seeing them begin to slow down, noticing the small things, the rapturous surprise of discovery, or overhearing them sharing a trail story are rewarding returns on investment.
Empower them by letting them choose their snack. Pack drawing paper and crayons. Let them draw what they want. Use the time to have an uninterrupted conversation, let them talk about what they want. (I'm a Pokemon EXPERT because of this.) These moments will become so special to them and to you.
Why would I suggest such an undertaking after laying out the realness like this?
Not only do you receive the benefits of nature; stress reduction, mood boost, increased focus, sleep improvement, increased energy, etc., but our kids will also begin to build foundations and skills to help them navigate their lives in the years ahead. You'll instill in them that the wilderness is a respite, an escape and refuge when things get too real and create budding eco-conscious advocates for future generations.
Accept the inconvenience. Give them a gift that they can return to for the rest of their lives.