We have 3 kids now: newly 8 years, 4 years, and 2 months old. It’s the middle of a hot summer, and the older kids are dying to get out and about. To be honest, the grown-ups are also dying to get out and about in the woods. However, we have two big logistical issues: 1) New baby! 2) It’s HOT. Also a planning consideration is the fact that our daughters are a few years apart, and thus have pretty different abilities and interests when it comes to outdoor activities.
Our 8 year old is riding her bike in double-digit mileages when she’s able, and can easily hike up mountainsides. Our 4 year old, while precocious and dead-set on being able to do whatever her older sister can do, really isn’t able to speed-hike up 4000’ elevation. She’s more interested in watching ants build their homes, or letting spiders crawl on her for hours.
Our general mode of operation is to divide and conquer: one parent takes the older kiddo, one the younger. However we’re now outnumbered and have a new babe to add into the mix. On weekdays, I am the parent in charge of outdoor activities, as dad is at work, and I’m on ‘maternity leave’ (I own our business, so…’leave’ is really a matter of nuance!). We like doing things on weekdays because trails tend to be less crowded, which is key during this time of social distancing.
Mom-reality hits hard though: while the girls are practically bursting with energy, I have a 2-month old and I am somewhat less energetic than they. I do, however, crave being out of doors and out of our tiny house, and am as eager as our girls to play outside in the summer sunshine. I really value the time of free play that this strange time has offered us.
How do we get out and please everyone? My tactic this summer has been to choose hikes that are challenging for the middle daughter and a bit easy for the elder, and that have some kind of destination. The destination is key (a stream! A pool! A familiar tree!) to get the 4 year old onboard, and it also lets the elder daughter wander a bit knowing that even if she gets ahead/out of sight, she knows what she’s aiming for. When the 4 year old and I are watching the slow progress of a bug or I am taking time to nurse, our older daughter climbs trees or rocks to test out her abilities in a way that grabs her attention.
Hiking definitely challenges me (even just 2 or 3 miles!). I am usually carrying the baby and a backpack of water, snacks, etc., plus navigating and keeping an eye out for safety/masks/etc. Once we are out in the woods or on the trail, the going is usually pretty smooth; the challenging part for me is choosing an appropriate route, packing the water/snacks/sunscreen/hats/diapers/wipes/sunglasses/bug spray/masks/pacifier/etc. that we need for the day, and actually getting out the door in time to beat the heat. I think I used to have this down to a fine art with 2 kids, and now I’m learning it all over again with 3! My general ‘out the door by 7’ routine has slid to ‘I’m glad if we’re out the door by 9….:30’ and I just hope we go somewhere with shade.
Three kids is different: Hiking as a mom with a newborn and two big kids is a challenge to coordinate and to execute, but it’s well worth it for the time together outside.
More specifics on hiking (& camping, biking, etc.) with three kids of varying coming soon!