Wild Eats : Toddler Hiking – Pants Optional

Wild Eats : Toddler Hiking – Pants Optional

By Avery Peters


This evening my son lay right down at the end of my neighbour’s driveway with his nose to the curb to inspect an ant. His head was just barely hanging over into the road. I was preoccupied with teaching him the concept of staying on the sidewalk and the dangers of the road and how he is supposed to hold my hand. I watched him for a moment, fully engrossed in the ant’s tiny little world and then he started smacking the ant… (I guess he’s seen us do that with all the ants in our house).

Last week Llewyn headed up a toddler-paced hike down our favourite trail. The Woodland Trail at Acadia University (attached to the Botanical Gardens) has an unofficial connecting trail at the end of our driveway. We make our way down there many times a week. We take the trail at his pace most of the time, and no matter what the weather, he is drawn to the stream. I, or maybe I should say, we, lead a hiking group in the Valley called Hike it Baby Wolfville. Once we get down into the forest, Llewyn leads his pals straight into the stream. We don’t have to go far and then that’s where we stop for hours of entertainment. It’s hard to get much further. So now, if there aren’t too many mosquitoes, I stop to take it in too and sit on the bridge as he trudges right into the stream, right up to his waist, or he just plunks himself right in the stream, pants and all. All his toddler friends follow him too and they cross back and forth, back and forth, throwing rocks and sticks and splashing away. It’s still early spring, but they love it even more than a pool. Once they have their time and we finally coax them back onto the trail for some more hiking they aren’t too happy about their soaked pants. So, I pull his pants off over his shoes and he continues on in his diaper. Once the other kids see this they want their soaked pants off too, so it turns into a pants-optional hike. We moms all get a good laugh.

Not a day goes by when my son doesn’t ask me to go outside with him. When he was a baby, hiking was a way for me to deal with his fussy times, in addition to being a time for me to think. I saw how he noticed the wind and enjoyed the breeze across his face even at 3 months old. He would take in a deep breath, his eyes wide, and smile and sigh.

One night, on our before-bedtime forest hike we crouch down together on a windy evening and look up through the clearing to the maple trees in the distance. For the first time he makes the connection of the wind making the sound in the leaves. A few more times on our hike he crouches down, “Mama, listen.” I teach him but he’s teaching me – you squat and look up, you get wet no matter what the weather, you stop everything and lay flat on your belly with your nose to the ground. Whether you smack the ant, or watch it run, is up to the ever-changing mood of a toddler, but they’re watching us. What will they learn?