I can hardly get my kids in and out of Target without at least one disaster, so it might seem crazy to leave civilization on purpose to play near water where there are lots of sticks and rocks and no restrooms. Here are some tips to make it easier.
What to Bring
Since my hikes with little kids are short, I pack light. I bring a small backpack with:
- Snack, usually fruit
- Diaper and wipes
- Plastic bag for dirty diapers and other trash
- Extra panties and shorts
- Cell phone
- Small first aid kit
The Shoal Creek and Barton Creek trails are shared by walkers, runners and bikers. This can get a little tricky when you have little ones, since they are slower and less maneuverable. Some days, it feels like you are the sailboat and the runners and bikers are speed boats and then the crazy winds come and everybody can get a little nuts. But, just like all the different kinds of boats on the water, it is possible to get along, with a little common sense and courtesy.
Be aware of others and stay to the right of the trail. Listen for bells and “on the left” warnings from bikers behind you. Don’t stop in the middle of the trail without looking behind you first. Don’t stay stopped on the trail. If you need to stop, step to the side, so others can pass.
Stay on the trail. Little ones might want to explore the less traveled route, but to be kind to the plants and animals, it is better to stay on the marked trails.
Here is a pretty good list of basic safety tips. Here are a few extra of my own, especially for the little kids.
I bring along a second adult when we hike. This is a general hiking safety tip, to not hike alone. But with little kids it is extra important, since two kids might throw tantrums at the same time and run in different directions, one towards the water and the other to to the top of a tall boulder. If there are two adults, and the other adult also has kids, I keep a low adult-to-flight-risk-kid ratio. Do you know what I mean by flight risk? It is the stage after they are mobile, but before they consistently follow directions. My limit is two adults for every 3 flight-risk kids. (I’m hopeful that they won’t all three throw tantrums at the same time.) If we are going to wade or swim in the water or if there is elevation, then it is a one-to-one ratio.
Use good judgment for the given terrain. When Buttercup was a baby and I had her in a carrier, I didn’t hike on the Barton Creek creek bed, on the rocks and boulders, since a fall would be more likely. Now that Buttercup is two, she walks along the creek bed while I hold her hand. She still doesn’t always watch where she is going, though, so I stay close and hold her hand when there is elevation.
This tip is about mental safety, more than physical. If we manage to make it a distance on our hike, I head back when 1/3 of our time is up. Little kids are unpredictable when it comes to diaper changes, skinned knees and the I-don’t-want-to-go-home-now drama. It is less stressful if there is extra time to handle these kinds of things.
Austin weather is amazing for hiking, just about year round. In the winter, it is almost never too cold. I had planned a hike one Saturday morning, only to wake up and find out it was 32 degrees! But, we were meeting someone, so we bundled up and headed out anyway. After we started walking and the sun warmed things up a bit, it was one of our favorite hikes.
The summer is a little harder. We do early morning hikes when it gets super hot. We dress cool and bring ice water in the sippy cups.
If you have a tip for other little kid hikers, leave a comment!