Dear Mountain Mama,

Now that my son can walk, his favorite response to everything is “do it self.” My wife and I used to take him hiking all the time, but now he refuses to be carried. It’s cute watching him walk, but makes for an excruciatingly slow outing.

Do you have any other ideas for toddler-friendly adventures?

Thanks,

Toddler Dad

Dear Toddler Dad,

I admire your commitment to explore the outdoors with your son. As parents, we strive to pass along the best parts of our world to our children, and often that’s our connection to the outdoors. With a little creativity, almost anything you enjoy doing can be adapted to include your family.

Raise Kids to Go with the Flow

We’re lucky enough to live close to a mellow stretch of river and can often squeeze in a post-work float. There are days when I crave more action, so I’ve searched for a babysitter who doesn’t mine driving shuttle. I pack a dinner picnic, grab a paddling partner, and we all load into the truck. The sitter and my toddler son drop us off at the put-in and then play in the water or go for a hike at the take-out. An hour later we all enjoy the setting sun and eat together.

For an overnight adventure, reserve one of the river-side campsites along the French Broad River and take your family on an overnight river trip. Last summer we paddled fifteen miles in two days down a mostly Class I section of the river. My son loved swimming breaks, holding the paddle, and dragging his fingers along the water’s surface.

Divide and Conquer

There will be days when taking your kids on an adventure seems daunting. On these days, reach out to your childless friends. Too often we don’t call some of the people we most loved spending time with before we had kids just because they don’t also have children. My childless friends assure me they love being included on kid-friendly adventures.

During this past winter’s big snow, two friends, my son, and I skied up Roan Mountain. The pickup was loaded with cross country skis and my play boat. We nestled my toddler in a Therma-rest and sleeping bag, and made a harness using kayak straps. We all took turns pulling him up the mountain while he napped. He woke up just in time to take in the spectacular view at the top and the downhill. My friends love getting their kid fix, my son soaks up the attention, and I got to share the parenting load. It’s truly a win-win when we all take turns.

Pass Along the Need for Speed

Investing in a bike trailer is the perfect way to get a work out in while spending time with your little guy. My son squeals in delight when he feels the wind on his face and shouts, “Faster mama.” Pulling the extra weight adds a strength training element to any ride. Consider a speed interval day, where you ride hard between toddler-friendly stops such as playgrounds of snack breaks.

For a toddler-friendly bike vacation, combine forces with other families. A good friend spent a week cycling the parkway. The dads pedaled in the morning, while the moms took the kids on a short hike then caravanned to an agreed-upon hotel (always with a pool). When the dads arrived, the moms set out on an afternoon ride while the dads and kids played in the pool.

Enjoy your time outside!

Mountain Mama