Ten Tips for Hiking & Walking with Young Children

We try to get out for a walk every day, even if it’s only a short walk in our campo (countryside).  We have the luxury of wonderful weather, most days (yes it does rain in Spain) and spectacular scenery.  We have always enjoyed walking and hiking and really hope that we can pass on our passion for the great outdoors to our children.

At the moment with a two and just recently turned four year old, the longest walks we attempt are 6km circular routes.  We carry the two year old for some of the walk, the longest he has probably walked is 3km.  Our four year old walks, the whole way.  It might not be a long walk for some but it took us quite a journey to get here and we’re really proud that we can go for family walks together.

So here’s our top tips for walking and hiking with young children:

1. Motivation
Without doubt the biggest factor for failing.  If your children are unmotivated they won’t enjoy their walk.  Motivation, praise and encouragement always go a long way to ensuring a successful walk.  Our eldest loves to map read and lead the way because, why…because of course he’s simply brilliant at spotting the signs and following the route!  For some strange reason unbeknown to both of of us, the boys are both so much happier and focused when they are holding something in their hands (go figure!), or take a backpack with toys.  Always take toys, even if they protest, when it comes to picnic time they will love the fact that you have packed a few lightweight toys to play with.  Try a few alternatives and do whatever works for your children!
2. Snacks
If all else fails, feed them.  A child will always be happy with snacks, well our two are anyway!  We always pack a complete range, from the healthier options of bananas (ours could eat their own bodyweight in bananas), apples, dried fruit and rice cakes to the occasional sweets or crisps.  Our two love these Fig and Nut Energy Bars as a boosting healthy snack.  Snacks are rarely turned down and always seem to lift ailing spirits.
3. Picnics
This obviously carries on from above but the promise of a picnic when you reach the top of the hill/mountain always goes down well.  You can spend some time discussing the content of the picnic and how welcome it will be when you find the best ever picnic spot to devour your prize.  We also get the boys to help us find the best spots, follow their lead and you might end up picnicking in the strangest of places!
4. Clothing = Layers
Children are the the worst at expressing their discomfort if they are too hot or too cold.  The best way we have to alleviate this is to always have options available.  Our boys don’t have big winter coats, they have fleece lined water proofs a size bigger than needed, that way we can use the waterproofs all year round and add layers underneath if needed.  Waterproofs are also lightweight to carry, if Daddy is carrying one child and Mummy all the gear and snacks, every gram counts!
5. Games
These can range from any number of things that spark our imagination on the walk to the good old tried and tested.

Spot the…tractor, where we live there are lots and you get points for spotting it first and naming the colour.  Bonus points if you can say the correct colour in English and Spanish!
Motorbike/dirt bike racing, generally making silly noises pretending to change gear, skid around corners and always, always weave in and out of trees when available.

Muddy puddles, ditches, gates, water pipes, flora and fauna and any animals or insects are all great talking points and great spot the…games.

Without fail both Chaos and Mayhem love to find treasure.  This involves keeping your eyes peeled whilst looking for anything intriguing or just out of place.  Our treasure haul includes sticks, anything plastic, bottles, lids, ancient spoons, ancient pottery tiles, old toy cars, acorns, stones and doggie poo poo-which is not to be touched but laughed at and jumped over whislt shouting out poo-poo ka-ka balls!
6. FUN
If your walks are boring you will experience the whinge-factor and make the walk a complete disaster for everyone!  We have learned from our mistakes that if the walk is one level, same terrain and with too much uphill without a rest then none of us will have an enjoyable walk.  Look for walks that are circular, have interesting views, monuments, sculptures, sights or history.  Somewhere your toddlers can be involved in the navigating following maps, finding signposts and navigate the way.  A walk that you can help make fun and will capture their imagination and keep them interested.  Our newest way to quash the whinge-factor is to sing.  The Grand Old Duke of York is the BEST way to get your children up a hill!  A good old-fashioned sing along, who can be sad when singing I’m H-A-P-P-Y, I’m H-A-P-P-Y, I know I am, I’m sure I am, I’m H-A-P-P-Y.  Oh and skipping.  Skipping is sooo much more fun than walking and being silly always lightens the mood.
Walking & Hiking With Children Keep the Walk FUN!
Walking & Hiking With Children Keep the Walk FUN!
7. Options
When four year old Chaos started to enjoy walking we used to give him he option to go in the carrier if his legs got tired.  We stopped taking the carrier with us, initially on short walks, then on longer and longer walks.  If he wanted to get home he had to walk.  On the  very rare occasion that the whinge-fest became too much to bear and if we genuinely felt that he was too tired, or ill to walk, we would piggy-back him home for the sake of our own sanity.  Luckily, this was very rare.  Usually he stepped up and using the above tips we had him motivated enough to carry on walking.
8. Leading the Pack
Involve your children at all time following the route of your walk.  From reading the map, to looking out for and searching for signs.  If you involve them and get them excited about what they are doing and where they are going next, what they are trying to find, they are much more likely to enjoy themselves!
Walking & Hiking With Children Leading the Way
Walking & Hiking With Children Leading the Way
9. Holding Hands
If in doubt, hold their hands, support them and encourage them physically.  Just the touch of Mummy and Daddy is both encouraging and comforting.
Walking & Hiking With Children Holding Hands & Being Supportive
Walking & Hiking With Children Holding Hands & Being Supportive
10. Go at their Pace
Probably the most important point on our list of tips that can make or break a walk or hike.  If you try to rush your child, they will rebel, or worst still, wipe out!  Give them time to stop and smell the roses, literally.  If something takes their interest stop, admire, discuss and take time to listen to them.  A child who is involved is much more likely to enjoy whatever you are doing.
Walking & Hiking With Children Taking the Walk at Their Pace
Walking & Hiking With Children Taking the Walk at Their Pace
We hope you have some success getting your outside and walking and hiking more.  Have you any great tips for motivating and encouraging your children to walk and hike?
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106 Comments Add yours

  1. Coombe Mill says:

    What a lovely post, I totally agree on making walks fun and something for kids to look out for to keep them occupied #KCACOLS

    1. Thank you, yes if you keep them boost that tend to forget that they’re doing exercise!

  2. tinmccarthy says:

    I bet your kids sleep so good at night with all of your adventures!
    #KCACOLS

    1. Ha ha, we wish. Even after a full on day walking the youngest still wakes up during the night and both kids wake at the crack of dawn full of beans!

  3. Accidental Hipster Mum says:

    There’s not really anywhere to hike near me but we’d love to go away in the summer for a little cottage holiday. I reckon we could look into hiking as part of our trip. It’s something I’d never have considered with a little one until I read this!

    #KCACOLS

    1. It can take a little bit for them to get used to, but children just love being outside and are so fascinated by nature if you start small they will love it I’m sure! Enjoy!

  4. Wow I don’t think I could walk as far as your kids do! How amazing! Looks like you have some lovely places to walk too. ❤ #KCACOLS

    1. Thank you, the kids really are brilliant and we are spoilt living in such a beautiful place!

  5. Mainy - myrealfairy says:

    Your walks sound like good fun and its great to hear of your adventures. We like to carry lots of snacks too as our boys seem to start talking about this as soon as we start our walks!! Lots of water too as this would halt any type of walk for us.

    Mainy

    #KCACOLS

    1. Yes, thanks great reminder about the essential water. Our boys share a straw cup which fits nicely in our camera bag.

  6. Kerry says:

    I’ve never been an outdoorsy person until I had a child! We now regularly go for long walks or explore the local woods (we go on bear hunts to make it more interesting). These are fab tips, and I agree with every single one of them…especially snacks! You can regularly hear us singing ‘Old Macdonald’ or playing Eye Spy. Also there’s nothing like a good bit of fresh air to knock them out is there! #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Thanks, that sounds great, so good for you and the little one.

  7. talkingmums1 says:

    We love getting outdoors and I think the biggest point you made was taking things at their pace. I’ve always been a fast walker, forever inpatient but since having kids I had to learn to slow down.
    #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks for the comment. Absolutely, keep a realistic pace or it could be frustrating for you and them.

  8. MummytoDex says:

    Such a great list of tips. I am from Wales and would love to be able to take Dex hiking around Snowdonia. I will definitely bear these thoughts in minds for when we get to that point!

    #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks, glad you like the tips. You are in a fantastic area for walking

  9. Great simple ideas. We love to get outside and walk but do often shy away from the longer treks, but this encourages us to try a bit longer ones. Go at their own pace is one thing I struggle with when with extended family who are all about the destination when I feel their really missing half the fun!

    1. Thanks, go for it. We are surprised how quickly our eldest can walk, but having the children changed our expectations, the more we get out the better we are all getting at walking as a family.

  10. Great tips. We always find treasure hunts and going at their pace really helps. And who doesn’t love a good picnic?!

    1. Thanks Alana, the boys now expect a picnic everyday and are highly disappointed if we don’t deliver!

  11. really lovely post. my son aged 3 has never been keen on walking unless we are going somewhere and it isn’t far. he loves us to carry him and will really whinge on about it too. I love the idea of giving him a map and asking him to lead the way. im going to try this next time we are out and about ! #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks, age 3 will be remembered as whingy but also the year our boy wanted to walk and not be carried.

  12. I love this! We went for our first big walk of the season last weekend but am going to remember some of these tips for the future ones. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Thanks, glad you like. Happy walking!

  13. Four Acorns says:

    I LOVE your photos! I spotted a couple of them on Instagram yesterday, and I wanted to check out this post, so here I am! As a fellow hiking family I agree with all your tips – we have used them all at some point or another. Snacks and lots of play stops are must-haves in our family, and we recently got into the habit of making (and eating) noodles for our picnic. All kids really look forward to them every time we go out 😉
    #FamilyFun

  14. Thanks, noodles are a winner for us. Also Pasta tubes, bow-ties, springs, wraps, fruit, boiled eggs, nuts in shells (have fun cracking them). Just something quick and easy to make while we get ready to go.

  15. twotinyhands says:

    A few of my favourite pictures are of my probably one year old laying on the map as if he is reading it! At 20 months now he loves to walk and like you have done we are trying to instil a sense of outdoors for him. Love these tips and give me hope that in a year or two time we will have a walker alongside us too! ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

    1. Glad you like our tips. We hoped for a walker too, he seemed very happy in the carrier and it suited us too. You will need to persevere.

  16. Louise says:

    Fabulous tips. We love getting out and about for a good walk too. The promise of a picnic always helps (as does snacks!) and anything that makes it fun always works well too. It’s one of the things I love about geocaching – it turns an ordinary walk into a treasure hunt. We usually also pack nature books which helps encourage the girls to look out for things they can stick into their books. That helps keep them interested in the walk too 🙂 #twinklytuesday

    1. Thanks, love the idea of a nature book to stick things into. We now have a growing collection of treasure. Usually small pieces of broken Granada style pottery white with blue and green paint patterns.

  17. I would add be careful about how far you go. Mine always wants to go “just a little bit more.” Too many times I ended up carrying her the last leg of the trip back! #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks, too true. It can be tempting to see what is just round the next corner. It should be in the back of your mind, how long is it going to take to get back?

  18. Kat says:

    Some fantastic tips! I have to say doing the same walk each day is boring for me so I can only imagine how boring it must be for my daughter sometimes, however, when we have free time, we don’t mind a walk out and about, particularly on holidays! #Sharingthebloglove

    1. Thank you, yes it’s so true if we are bored as adults then our children definitely are!

  19. I’m seriously impressed that you manage to walk with two young children! We’ve always been big walkers but once my son refused to go in the carrier we had to put it on hold. We’ve been trying more lately, but still end up carrying him a lot so these tips are great for me. He’s just at the age now where he can start to enjoy things like games and trails, so I’m feeling confident that we might have more luck! Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Thanks for commenting and hosting. Such a shame he refused to go in a carrier! Ours were carried from birth so were kind of used to it but Mayhem still has the odd strop about getting in a carrier, soon quashed by giving him a raisin, something to hold, or distracting him long enough to get him attached! Hopefully he will enjoying trails and in a few months or so you will be able to carry your newest addition whilst he walks! Good luck!

  20. Great tips. We try to walk more but need to put more in as the weather improves.

    #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks, the weather is an important factor in the enjoyment of a walk. Wearing layers helps.

  21. suzanna says:

    How fantastic that you can enjoy walking as a family. My grandchildren (also 2 and 4) are quite good at walking but we’ve never attempted anything too adventurous. You have encouraged me to try some longer trails.
    #sharingthebloglove

    1. Great, go for it, the more adventurous you are the more they will be…just pick a really interesting trail for your first longer outing and don’t forget the yummy treats and picnic!

  22. Great advice – especially snacks and going at their pace. Really good post. #familyfunlinky xx

    1. Thank you, lovely comment.

  23. Peachy says:

    Some great tips here and I love your photos. #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment!

  24. Such a great post! You actually make me want to go for a hike tomorrow! you are right to plau games and go at their pace. Just enjoying the experience really and make the most of it! Fab pictures too, your little ones are gorgeous! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

  25. Wow, glad you like the post. Hope you get out and have a nice walk soon.

  26. Emma T says:

    I don’t think N has ever done a walk of that distance (unless it’s just generally during a day out). I’d want to avoid just a walk because a) I’m not a big fan unless I’ve got other friends with me and I’m distracted about the distance and b) he’d get bored without friends with him or me dragging out so much stuff with me. There’s some great tips – food is definitely the big one for us. #sharingthebloglove #thelistlinky

    1. Walking isn’t for everyone we love it and hopefully our boys will too. Walking with groups of other people is a great idea for motivating little ones!

      1. Emma T says:

        It definitely helps keep N’s mind off the fact he’s walking. Having said that, he’ll happily spend 4 hours outside walk and beating on a shoot on the farm, so he can walk as long as there’s a purpose.

  27. Good advice, it’s definitely important to keep it fun! #familyfun

    1. Thanks for commenting, yes if we didn’t keep it fun there would definitely be more whingeing. Ha!

  28. Such great advice! The going at their pace. making it fun. playing games. We employed very similar tactics when ours were small with skiing – oh and the layers trick – definitely! You have to make the experience fun. Gorgeous photos – really makes me want to go trekking! #BigPinkLink

    1. Thanks, glad you like the tips, it seems you can really relate to them.

  29. I really miss getting out and about with my two. We used to go Geocaching to get out, they loved it. Found loads of new places! They are 17 now, always off doing their own thing now!
    #MarvMondays

    1. What a great way to find new places, well done, bet they loved it.

  30. It’s so lovely if little ones can learn to love walking – great tips! #kcacols

    1. Thanks, there are so many benefits for their little bodies and minds.

  31. We love to go for walks in our local woods, we make it an adventure. The walks are not that long, but we can build it up as they get older. Great tips. We find when we go with our friends, they will walk for longer and less fuss. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

    1. The woods are great, so many discussion points and adventures to be had, just don’t get lost. Encouragement from others can really get the children moving.

  32. mommyandrory says:

    I love been outside and walking. I spent a lot of time outdoors while on maternity leave and I plan to carry on as Rory gets older. As he’s only just started toddling it’s still quite easy to strap him into the pushchair but I’ll definitely be putting your tips into practice once he’s walking properly #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks, keep up the walking, ease into it when he is ready. Good luck .

  33. stressymama says:

    Ah what a great post. I love getting out walking with my two year old. I’m not sure how far we walk but she’s a really good walker. Walking is a great way to get out of the house and is great for fitness too. #marvmondays

    1. If your two year old is walking you are definitely doing something right, well done you!

  34. diynige says:

    Some great tips here not sure anything will make my five year old twins sleep all night great read #triumphanttales

    1. Oh no, please tell me they sleep through at 5! I hope so, even if we’re on the go all day my 2 year old still wakes up, my 4 year old generally sleeps like a log, think it’s just who they are… Boo!

  35. Our Doll is only 1y9mo and baby #2 is due in a week so walks are a little out of our (or at least my) league just now. Not to mention all the snow and ice! Once baby is here though we plan to get more active. These tips are great, I’ll be sure to implement them!
    #TriumphantTales

    1. Congrats, hope it all goes well and in time with #2. It is more difficult to be active with little ones, when ours were smaller we just carried them in carriers/slings. The extra weight gets you even fitter! Actually, it’s also really nice to have them so close!

  36. Wow, I am impressed! 6 km is a good long walk for little legs. You’re absolutely right – finding the right motivation is absolutely crucial. We used to pack special treats that we normally won’t have as a reward for the end of the walk and that usually helps. Great tips. Thanks for linking with #bigpinklink

    1. Thanks for hosting and commenting..Ha ha, yes special treats are always great motivator… What is it about kids and sugar, total addicts and will do anything for it!

  37. I’m very impressed by all your walking! I have yet to take my almost-two-year-old hiking – she gets tired after walking for too long and she won’t go in a carrier, which means I end up carrying her a lot. I’d love to take her on more walks once she’s a bit older – if the Scottish weather lets me! #DreamTeam

    1. Thanks, plan something short with plenty to interest her, you can try and build up the distance if you want to. It’s a good bicep work out carrying them in your arms but it’s not the answer.

  38. This is great, we have loads of woods and huge parks near us, that we’ve often been caught out in with the little ones. Some great tips here. Yvadney #DreamTeam

    1. Woods and huge parks sound ideal for getting the little ones out and about, thanks

  39. Heather Keet says:

    I think I need tips on how to walk, my two left feet try to kill me daily! #DreamTeam

    1. Ha Ha, just put one foot in front of the other 😉

  40. Some great tips here! I love walking, so I’m hoping Jacob will too. #TriumphantTales

    1. Thanks for commenting, I’m sure your enthusiasm will rub off on Jacob.

  41. Suburban Mum says:

    Some fab tip here. I completely agree that you always need to pack snacks! Mine love to map read too – keeps them busy. #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks, we try not to let them get hungry/ thirsty and include a map for them to look at then make up a story to go with it.

  42. Kiri says:

    We get begged for snacks as soon as we set off on a walk! My 6 year old will walk about 5 miles on a good day – usually alternating between loving it one minute and hating the next! #sharingthebloglove

    1. Yes, they just love the snacks, ours are the same! Just keep feeding them and get them walking.. Ha! Your five year old sounds like our four year old!

  43. Twin Pickle says:

    Great post! My daughter hates walking though so I haven’t got much chance there. She’s always very dramatic about how tired she is when we haven’t even left the car park… hahaha #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Ha ha our eldest is the same, such a drama queen! He is gradually getting better because we walk so much he’s getting used to it… He has to!

  44. Your timing is perfect with posting this article! My twins are 4 1/2 now and I’ve been giving lots of thought to involving them in one of my favorite pre-kid pastimes: hiking. I’ll definitely be pinning this to come back to as the weather warms here. Thank you! #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Hi, thanks for commenting, twins! respect is due. Start off with some shorter walks, see how they do.

  45. tootingmama says:

    Great tips, we are heading up to the Pyrenees this summer and want to take the kids walking. We also go for long forest walks in Paris with the dog, going to keep these tips in mind! #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Thanks, hope you have a great time. I’m sure the dog is great motivation for you to get out and walk

  46. Great tips, we’ve just started walking so I’ll keep these in mind! #kcacols

    1. Thanks, good to hear you have started, hopefully it will become a part of yours/ theirs lifestyle

  47. makinghermama says:

    Great ideas! I always find that I need to pack about twice as much food as I initially think we’ll need. Hiking seems to make the black holes in my children’s stomachs quadruple!!! Thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

    1. Ha Ha, those burnt Kcals have to be replaced. It’s good to know if there is drinking water available on route, taking enough water for everyone can be heavy too.

  48. Helena says:

    This is great advice #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Thank you, glad you like the tips

  49. Jakijellz says:

    These are great tips! Mine normally, gets tired and/or bored and says ‘carry!!’ – needless to say at FOUR he is rather heavy! Love this post. Thanks again for linking #TriumphantTales

    1. Thanks glad you like this post, it’s quite a weight to carry isn’t it!

  50. Dave - Dad's Turn says:

    These are such good ideas. Little Bear has only just started walking but this time next year I’d love be take him on some walks. Great to keep them motivated and like the game ideas #MarvMondays

    1. We just managed a stunning 10.5 kms moderate walk, our eldest managed about 6ks, which meant carrying him for the steep section back. We expected this so packed a carrier for him.

  51. RawChildhood says:

    These are such good tips and a lot of people forget about them because they seem almost too obvious! My youngest is not much of a walker but then again he’s only 18 months so he has a while to go yet. We love walks through the forest and through the mud, that’s our favourite 🙂 #sharingthebloglove

    1. Hi, thanks, the forest sounds great. Muddy puddles can be motivating ‘come and look at this next massive puddle’ etc… if they have wellies on!

  52. These are some really good tips, I love seeing all of your photos on Instagram of your hikes and it makes me look forward to when Ben is older and we can go walking like you! Cant wait! Thank you so much for linking up to #TriumphantTales, I hope to see you again next week!

    1. Thank you, glad you like the instagram photos. Chaos suddenly wanted to walk through towns, up to castles etc when he was about three and a half. Thanks for hosting.

  53. How funny, this is the second post on hiking with kids I’ve read today…the downside is that it was the most glorious day here as usual but I missed out on our Sunday hike which is the only time we get to go because the whole fam was out at sports. We’ve never been a hugely outdoorsy family but now the kids are 12, 10 and 7 and don’t moan too much about hiking, we do it when possible and I’ve come to love it! #bigpinklink

    1. Hi, it sounds like you have a sporty family, and if you love walking, that enthusiasm will rub off on them.

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