I recently shared 10 tips for hiking with toddlers and young children, and since getting out on the trail whether here in Western Washington or in our travels around the country is our favorite outdoor activity to do as a family, I wanted to dive into each tip even deeper. Over the course of the year, I will dedicate one post for each of the 10 tips to give you more depth and detail into how we put the advice into practice and what it looks like for our family.
Tip #5: Ration Snacks and Use Treats for Motivation.
There’s no denying that my son loves to hike. As I’ve mentioned before, these days, anytime he sees any kind of natural area, mountain, forest, tree, or patch of grass, he asks if we are going to go on a hike. Lucky for us at this point, he’s not picky. Even the little sections of trees around the campsite during our recent trip to the Oregon coast could be considered “hikeable” in his eyes, and he loved exploring under the guidance of his older cousin.
Even with such a great interest though, he still needs motivation, and little energy boosts here and there to keep him moving along. That motivation can come in many forms (extra verbal encouragement, playing a game, shifting his focus to something ahead), but the easiest and probably one of the most successful ways is to offer a treat.
Incidentally, in addition to moving kids along the trail and providing a necessary snack, I’ve also found treats to be a way to prevent the “turn-around meltdown”. You see, Bergen (2.5 years old) loves hiking so much that he never wants to turn around and go back. Loops are great, but not always available, so I’ve finally learned to anticipate the turn-around point, and provide the snack then!
10 Favorite Treats for the Trail
1. Trail Mix
Whether you call it “GORP” or trail mix or some other fun name (I hear that are some great variations in Europe), the basics of this combination of treats is perfect for hiking. Personally, I love a simple mix with raisins, peanuts, and some sort of chocolate. Add in other nuts like cashews, walnuts, almonds, and that’s great too! Other dried fruit (cranberries, pineapple, cherries, etc.) gives some variety, along with add-ons like granola, seeds (sunflower, pumpkin), and pretzels.
Packs a ton of protein, and is obviously so easy to store and carry along. I also like it because it doesn’t disappear so quickly since it’s a little tougher to chew. We were recently introduced to Krave Jerky thanks to our review of the Great Outdoors Food company, and have found it to be some of the best we’ve tasted!
3. Granola Bars
A grab-and-go-snack that you know will provide plenty of energy and delicious bites. There are so many different varieties of granola bars making it possible to satisfy any hiker in the group. The Clif company is usually our go-to source, but we’ve also taken a liking to the Kind Bars with my favorite being peanut butter & strawberry.
Yes, not the healthiest of choices, but what better time to stop for a real treat than on the trail when you are burning a good amount of calories anyway? During our hike last week, this was the treat that allowed the transition of turning around on the trail to go smoothly for Bergen. He knew I had the cookie in my bag, and I kept telling him that we’d dig into it when it was time to turn around. Worked like a charm.
5. Dry cereal
Sometimes just a container of cheerios makes for a nice companion to a leisurely stroll down the trail. Toddlers in particular need to eat so frequently (or at least mine does), and a handful of cereal can work wonders for his attitude and energy level. Again, it’s also easy to pack and light to carry.
6. Fruit pouches
Those pouches filled with apple sauce (or some other mashed up fruit variation) are my husband’s favorite go-to snack for Bergen and they work really well on the trail too. All that fruit gives him a great boost of energy, he’s happy with the yummy taste and it’s not at all messy, unless of course he squeezes the contents out before fully consuming. Luckily the last part has not happened in a good while since Bergen now feels the value of the snack outweighs any fun he might have squishing it all over the place.
7. Cheese crackers
Cheez-its, cheddar bunnies, or the very fancy cheese crackers from our local beecher’s cheese shop all make super fulfilling trail treats.
8. Jellybeans and other gummy snacks
These we save for emergency situations. Always a good idea to have these highly valuable snacks (okay, candy really) stowed away for those times when you need some real motivation. They are also nice to just dole out here and there, and work well with trail games. “Run to that tree, and you get a jelly bean!”
9. Dried Fruit
Our family favorite are the dried plantains from Trader Joe’s: crunchy, sweet, salty, and even a bit filling. We absolutely love them. Also on our list: mangoes, banana chips, raisins and apricots.
10. Honey Stinger Organic Waffles and Chews
Last but not least, we were recently provided with samples from Honey Stinger’s new kids’ product line. So far the line includes organic waffles (chocolate and honey flavored) and chews (sour citrus and mixed berry), and our toddler absolutely loves them, and views them as something very special!
All of the products are at least 95% organic and are free from artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and high fructose corn syrup. The waffles provide a healthy treat for when we all want to take a break on the trail, and we found the chews to be a great rationing snack as we just handed out one or two at a time as Bergen moved along the trail.
If you are interested in trying the new Honey Stinger Kids’ products, the folks at Honey Stinger have generously offered to provide a sample pack (of waffles and chews) to one of our readers! Simply leave a comment telling us you are interested in winning a sample pack + your favorite trail treat (we’d love more ideas)! Last day to enter is 4/21/14.
We’d love to add to our list! Share your favorite trail treat in the comments!
Disclosure: Thanks to Honey Stinger for providing us with samples of their waffles and chews for purposes of review. As always, all opinions expressed here are my own.
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