Family hikes – possible at any age?

Yes with a little planning and realistic expectations, says Emily Hardwicke, author and creator of @sebtheseries which supports breastfeeding as well as the (often emotional) transition to weaning.

” There is plenty of ‘great outdoors’ to be had in Switzerland, indeed, many people move here for exactly that reason.  But what if you’re breastfeeding a baby or have a troublesome toddler in tow? Are outdoor adventures still possible?  And how do you get everyone out of the house to enjoy the mountains without having a nervous breakdown?

Don’t worry!  Outdoor adventuring is still possible and even to be recommended!  Chances are you’re all much more likely to sleep better after a day spent breathing fresh mountain air and I don’t know about you, but that definitely makes it more than worthwhile!

Here are my ten top tips to get you off to a decent start:

  1. Bring a good carrier or hiking backpack
  • Make sure to do a test run first to check the baby/toddler fits well and they are happy in it.  Don’t do what I did and trap a leg leading to blood curdling screams as we tried to do up the straps!
  • A good carrier will support your back and will often be more structured than something that might be fine for carrying round town or in the house.
  • You might also want to think about how your child can comfortably sleep in it and bring some extra padding for a pillow or just use a soft layer or scarf.
  1. If your toddler can walk, make them!
  • One of the best things about hiking is connecting with the natural world so if children are on the ground this is much easier.  You may get a bit annoyed at having to carry stone number 35 or when you find random leaves clogging up your washing machine weeks later but it’s great for their engagement and overall enjoyment of the trip.
  • Do have a carrier on hand for when they refuse to walk any further however…carrying a wriggling toddler up a steep slope is not fun!
  1. Timing!
  • This is a big one.  Aim to work around your children’s schedules and go around nap times UNLESS the carrier is a sure-fire way of getting them to sleep and you can work with this.  Babies are generally more amenable so look at who has the greatest needs (or is more annoying when tired!) and plan your day around them.
  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
  • It helps if you’ve hiked the trail before and know what to expect but if you are exploring somewhere new, check the terrain, check the weather, and prepare for any unforeseen eventualities.  
  • This involves clothing changes and layers for ease when dealing with a potential range of temperatures if you are hiking at an elevation.
  • If you are aiming for a particular place to have lunch, a snack or have a drink, make sure to check opening times and whether you need to reserve a table.
  1. Supplies! this involves things like suncream, wet wipes, mosquito spray, hats, water, nappies, change of clothes…
  • a waterproof bag is good for any ‘accidents’ be it mud or something more untoward…
  • you will also want snacks…literally all the snacks.
  1. Which brings me to SNACKS!
  • There is nothing more annoying than a child whining on a hike.  However, I find that this can be somewhat mitigated with a ready supply of snacks.  The rule is that they don’t get any if they’re whining…
  • If you’re breastfeeding, make sure you are wearing accessible clothing (I find layers are good for this so you can pull one top down and lift one up, so you don’t get too chilly!).  Look out for handy logs, rocks or places to perch for a feed or if you’re able to feed with your baby in a carrier, you might not even need to stop!
  1. Appropriate footwear
  • If you’re carrying kids you really need to make sure that you’ve got decent hiking shoes / boots with grip to reduce the danger of slipping.
  • We also make sure our son has well-fitting boots / hiking shoes, but they don’t need to be super expensive as they do grow out of them so fast.  Decathlon is great for sturdy boots that are perfect for exploring trails and forests.
  1. Be realistic and adjust expectations
  • Hikes with kids are a totally different experience to what you may have done before.  I’ve had to adjust expectations and be less ambitious about the destination to focus more on the actual experience.  Even if you only do a kilometre or two it can still be a great day.  You also need to prepare for the fact that some days your kids may love hiking…. other times not so much!
  1. Entertainment and encouragement

If you’re finding it hard to motivate, little people might respond to the following tricks:

  • Snacks (obviously!) but try and turn it into a challenge to get them eg. can you reach that tree in less than a minute to get a haribo?
  • Nature hunt – finding things and observing the natural environment can be a great motivator.  You could look for animal tracks, things that are growing along the way eg. mushrooms, different things to pick up such as leaves, stone etc.
  • Songs – can you run through your entire repertoire and teach them some new tunes?  Ask them to teach you songs they’ve learnt in nursery or school! You might see less ‘nature’, but it can pass the time pretty well!
  • Counting – can you find items to count along the way or count along with your strides?
  • Walking like an animal can be an interesting challenge!  Let’s get to the end of this path like a monkey, or prowling like a tiger…
  • If your child is familiar with the Gruffalo, try and find evidence of his existence in the woods!  A scratch on a tree?  Gruffalo claws!  Marks on the track?  Paw prints!  You could do this with other characters as well as retelling other stories or re-enacting something like ‘Going on a Bear Hunt.’
  1.   Take photos
  • Being able to look back at the day and realise that there were some positive moments when at least someone was smiling will make it seem like it was all worthwhile!  You never know, you might even want to get out there again the next weekend!”

Are you a hiking family?  Got it all sussed, prepared for every eventuality?

Or does the prospect of hiking with small children just drive your stress levels up?

Share with us your top tips, any favourite local routes that work for you or tales of disaster, because we know things don’t always go smoothly!

We’re always here to listen. The HUB – giving you space to share and connect.

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