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Spending a few days walking is a great way to unwind and regain perspective - but is it possible with a kid?
My wife and I are both keen walkers, whether it's wild camping, hill-walking or simply a stroll along the canal, but we've never tried a proper multi-day trip with a toddler. Until now that is. We've just returned from 3 days with our twenty-two month-old in the Yorkshire Dales, and the good news is that it's possible! Here are three things that we learnt:
1. Build tantrum-time into the schedule
In the past, we planned our routes based on optimistic assumptions about conditions, terrain and our own fitness levels. This led to some good adventures (and plenty of blisters), but not to toddler-friendly situations. Key lesson: don't over-reach.
Put simply, you are going to lose at least a couple of hours each day whilst your toddler admires tractors, moos at cows or simply stands there and refuses to move. These times are much more fun if you're not on a punishing schedule.
2. Kids enjoy it more in the valley
When we head out to the hills our inclination is to... err... climb them. We like the views and the exertion always seems worth it. However, Aidan finds the fell-tops windy, cold and boring. Meanwhile, the valleys are full of cool stuff: streams for jumping in, sheep for laughing at, bridges for pooh sticks, and flat paths with no trip or fall hazards.
This trip we tried to strike a balance: we climbed a small hill on the first day, and then a slightly larger one on the second, together with long stints along the river valleys below.
3. Take the right kit (obviously!)
Such a boring but important point. This time round we managed to pack a pair of leaky wellies for Aidan, omitted our survival shelter (which would have made a great den for Aidan in the wind and rain of the first day) and discovered that my wife's waterproof trousers are no longer waterproof.
On the positive side, our kid-carrier continues to go from strength to strength (a Deuter Kid Comfort II), our walking polls were a Godsend carrying Aidan up the hills, and we packed ruthlessly enough to make the second rucksack relatively light. On this last point, we decided to stay in B&Bs rather than camp, and given the weather and weight involved, that also seemed like a good call.
To conclude: hiking is still fun with a toddler. We met plenty of interesting people, explored some new places and came back refreshed, as well as very stiff. So don't let parenthood quell your thirst for the outdoors - take the kids with you.
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