3 Tips for Toddler Paced Hiking

Near our house we are lucky enough to have a mountain range about 15-20 minutes away. (San Tan Mountain Range for those locals that read my blog and want to check it out!) It is ideal for us whenever we are in need of some desert time. About once a week after work, Mathew will meet me here with the boys for an evening stroll. It is quickly becoming one of my new favorite activities and ways to spend the evenings.

I have an hour long commute at minimum to the city in the morning and another hour to get back home in the afternoon. A lot of commuters say that their long drive helps them reset and leave work at work. Another common statement that I come across often is that they are more equipped to walk into their home/parenthood responsibilities because they have processed their workdays and can have a clean slate and mind. I too have tried to work on this for the past month but, it just isn’t work for me to achieve that stress free mood that I anticipated I would get.


Walking and being outside are the fuel that my mind and body need to reset and reengage. For the past 2-3 weeks we have started meeting at a trail head with no intention of getting to the end or hitting a certain mile mark. We just walk, as a family. We go at the kids pace and just let them gauge how long we stay and how far we go.

I realize I am not the only one that needs this to reset.

My husband is taking on the role of primary parent while I am away at work and I know how hard it can be with limited adult interaction. Then and the stress of 2 toddlers that are stubborn and constantly make mess after mess. The kids are growing and adjusting with increasing emotions and figuring out what they want and need. Trying to process emotions and feelings is hard when you are 3 and 1 1/2 .

We all need a moment to reset.

I love the outdoors. (that is no secret) I am motivated when I am on a hike knowing that I get to see amazing views. Sometimes, the best views are just watching the kids play in the dirt with a stick while the sunsets surrounded by cacti. When we get back to the car I always feel a sense of relaxation… (note * this is after some small toddler meltdowns of realizing they are tired and need snacks). As a type A personality one thing that I used to really struggle with is trying to control the outcome of our hikes. Trying to ensure that “I still got an actual hike in with the kids in tow.” Or, forcing stops and water breaks out of paranoia to ensure they were resting and hydrated enough.

“But, then I realized more and more that I need to let them lead and follow.”

3 Tips for Toddler Paced Hiking

This is as much needed for them as me. It is important that I give this to them as well. Giving them the opportunity to explore and let them communicate with me when they are ready. My youngest son, Cole would be outside 100% of the day if he could. I recognize that this his outlet and happy place. When we are at home he will go and bang on the backdoor almost like he is requesting his “Cole time” to go be one with nature. He has less tantrums and is overall a much happier child when he has had the opportunity to go play outside.

  • 1. Creating a Balance

I have been trying to balance hikes that are for me where I can get the workout or reach the peak that I have been eyeing and then there are times that the hike is for the family and it is going to be toddler self-paced.

  • 2. Intention Setting

Identifying this point up front is helpful for more husband and I so that we don’t get frustrated with the speed.

  • 3. Understanding Boundaries

As my parenting style is continuing to evolve ensuring that I am following the kids growth – I find myself taking this toddler lead approach. I want to ensure that I am going with their pace to ensure I am focused on toddler paced hiking. When it comes to the activities and exploration, I am totally enjoying the progress and independence that the boys are demonstrating as a result.

Published by Brittany Donnelly

I'm Brittany Donnelly; curator and author of brittanydonnelly.com. I am officially a stay-at-home now, formerly a technical project manager. I am a mom of 2 and a proud Army wife with a love for hiking and traveling. Our home base is now Virginia. I have a passion for travel and adventure and want to inspire all of you to get out and see the world with your families.

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