How to hike with kids this winter: family-approved hacks
It’s officially winter! While many people cringe at the thought of trying to convince our kids (and ourselves) to layer up and get outside, there are numerous benefits to getting outside in the cold! Between fewer crowds on trails, a boost to your mood and a reduction in stress, getting outside in the winter months is absolutely worth the extra effort! However, we know that this can be easier said than done. That’s why we have compiled this list of tips, tricks and hacks from our awesome Hike it Baby community to help make it easier to gear up for winter and keep the whole family motivated to enjoy all that these colder months have to offer.
General Clothing Tips
My favorite hack is putting my socks on my babies/toddlers so they go up to the knee and pull the pants down over. I also use my socks on their hands instead of mittens when they are little so the socks go up to their elbows and the coat pulls over. That way they aren't constantly taking them off. My favorite are my fleece-lined, knee-length boot socks. – Nicholl, Charleston/ Lowcountry Branch
I've stopped fighting my kids to wear coats, hats and gloves. I offer them right off and have them readily available for them when they are ready. It beats forcing my boys to wear them and having them be miserable because they are dressed correctly. 9 times out of 10 coats and hats go on within the first 10-15 minutes. – Jessica, Winchester Branch
We are on a super-tight budget so spending the money on proper base layers seemed superfluous, but once we finally did, it was pretty much life-changing. I was still nursing my son when I got some of mine, so I got a 1/2 zip base layer and 1/4 zip fleece from REI so I could nurse without having to pull my shirt up. I've cheated and bought cheaper base layers for my kids since they outgrow them so fast, but I still follow the 3-layers rule – a wicking layer, a warm layer, and a weatherproof layer – for all of us, and it has allowed us to camp in 30-degree weather and hike in the single digits. Also a fun hack I got from an old neighbor: use babylegs on toddlers' arms to keep their gloves on! Put on the gloves, then a pair of babylegs overlapping their hands but leaving their fingers free, then their coats. Since it's hard to find good snow gloves for tiny hands, that keeps them from sliding off/being pulled off as easily. – Stephanie, Chattanooga Branch
I love this zip-in panel for my coats from Make My Belly Fit. I've used it with two kiddos and through one of my pregnancies. As long as I can wear on the front, they stay toasty warm and can nap inside my coat. I also love this baby-wearing hoodie where my daughter has a little hood, too. – Lindsay, Front Range Foothills Branch
My son was miserable when I dressed him in ski bibs and coat; he could barely move. I decided to layer up and use his rain suit and, man, it was a full game changer! No more snow getting in the waist and wrists! We use a wool or synthetic (cuddlduds or 32°) base layer, then a fleece layer, then his Oaki suit. If it's colder than 30° then I add his puffy coat over the fleece layer. We've always used smartwool socks, Veyokids Mittyz or Stonz Mittenz, fleece hat or fleece-lined knit hat and Columbia or Stonz snow boots. When your kid is comfortable, dry and warm ,they will play outside for hours! – Joey, Utah County Branch
Clothing on a Budget
Last winter I bought a yard of 5-6 designs of fleece material on sale and made my own seamless two-layer neck gaiters. They act as both scarf and can be folded up to cover head and ears. I made around 15 so there's plenty to go around for the whole family and cost much, much less than buying. – Vong, Kansas City Branch
Kid gear is expensive and they grow fast. Adult wool socks can be used in so many ways! Tied or cuffed around the head or neck as a head warmer or scarf. Pull them on arms and legs to basically cover the entire limb while holding the layers in place and offering easy access to diapers. Even over boots of small kids in a carrier to keep the shoes on. And a pocket stove is small enough to carry anywhere for access to instant hot cocoa. – Elizabeth, Gettysburg Branch
Due to kids growing so quickly, I love using fleece sleepers as a base layer when they’re really little. We picked some up cheap from Walmart specially for a camping trip when my oldest was little. Worked like a charm! – Rosalind, Calgary Branch
I’d say a special incentive helps!! HiB Tokyo, Japan Branch did a “Mottanai Fest”! It’s a freecycle event where we brought all our kids/babies clothing to a park n play and swapped. It was 4-8C but we had a bunch of families come, and everyone really enjoyed it!! We also had three pregnant moms come and get s bunch of used clothes for their babies!! – Joelle, Tokyo Branch
Schedule Your Outings Ahead of Time
Schedule the month ahead of time; it will help you not make excuses. I have some parents who plan which hikes they will attend at the beginning of the month so I know they are counting on me. – Lacey, Kenai Peninsula Branch
I try to host a hike at least once a week. Sometimes the day I choose ends up not being the nicest day, or maybe I'm not in the mood to get off of the couch, but because I committed to hosting, we show up. And I am ALWAYS glad that we did. – Shannon, Lehigh Valley Branch
I schedule all my hikes a month in advance. If it’s on the calendar, I’m much more likely to get out and do it than make some excuse. I also keep all of my little guy's outside stuff in one place where he can help get it out and get ready. I do the same with my stuff. When we don’t have to look for anything, it makes it much easier to get out the door. – Ann, Bucks County Branch
Hot chocolate hikes. Even when I'm ready and willing to hike, that doesn't mean my kids are! So I promise hot chocolate or having a picnic (lunch or dinner as opposed to just snacks), and that usually gets them really excited. We use our 50/50 bottles since it keeps their cocoa warm until it's time to stop and it don't leak in their backpacks. – Stephanie, Chattanooga Branch
Post-hike goodies! We brought hot cocoa and cookies after our first official snow play hike. The mamas and kiddos both enjoyed the refreshments! – Shari, Tahoe Branch
We use Smarties, I have a friend who uses M&Ms, and we call them moose poop. We go ahead a little bit and put on a rock for the little ones to find. It helps keep them going once out. The main incentive to going out in the first place is seeing and meeting new friends. We also like to go and look for animal prints in the snow. – Rosalind, Calgary Branch
Plan Fun Cold-Weather Activities
Last winter, we hosted a "Nature Craft and Snowshoe Hike" at a state park near our branch. The Environmental Educator who works in the Creekside Classroom (similar to a nature/discovery center) let us use her classroom space. The BAs teamed up to provide a different nature craft every week and then we were allowed to borrow the snowshoes for FREE. We were able to get the kiddos all bundled up in the classroom and then headed out for a VERY short snowshoe hike. It was a wonderful experience for everyone involved and we are planning on doing it again this year! – Natalie, Capital Region and Southern Adirondacks Branches
A few years ago we hosted a "muddiest hike" event. We get rain, not snow. We encouraged puddle jumping and playing in mud. The winner got a little crown made of sticks. – Samantha, Portland Branch
An easy and cheap winter activity is to fill small spray bottles with colored water to decorate the snow. It helps kids practice their fine motor skills while they squeeze. And for the younger crowd, a travel shampoo or lotion bottle can be used instead to drip colored water onto the snow. No cleanup and it is easy to do again and again! – Kate, Morrison County Branch
First, we like to aim for “first tracks” on trails after a big snowfall. My school-aged kiddo loves this, especially on snow days. It motivates us to get out of the house right after breakfast and spend hours outside instead of inside with TV, etc. Second, we hike some areas only in winter due to how busy they are in summer. Sometimes we are the only hikers or we’ll see maybe a handful of other hikers when we visit the popular places in the off-season. The feeling of solitude is so rewarding, especially when it’s a super crisp and quiet day! – Elizabeth, Holland, MI Branch
Adjust Your Expectations
We make it an adventure and set no expectations on distance or accomplishing any more than enjoying the fresh air and getting outside. Because we live in a “snow belt” with cold snowy winter weather from late October to early April, so we dress as waterproof and warm as possible and just have fun. Making sure we get outdoors is very important, even if it’s a “hike” we’ve only traveled 200 yards playing in the snow and snowmelt. – Corie, Cleveland and Akron Branches
We completely throw distance and time expectations out the window and focus on taking in the nature around us. We like to choose some of our favorite trails and bring along photos of them in different seasons so we can compare what we see in spring/summer vs. what we see in winter in the same spots. On particularly chilly days, we will stay close to the parking lot and just explore the nature nearby or look for signs of animal life. – Becca, Kitsap Peninsula Branch
Do you have any tips, tricks, or hacks for getting your family outdoors in the winter? Let us know in the comments below!
How to layer when babywearing in the cold
8 Ways to get out and enjoy winter with kids
How to keep your family warm on trail in winter
Photos by Amy Diebold, Laura Castro and Kim Ives.
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