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Small to Big: Growing your adventures with a baby and toddler

by Karen Ung
Today’s story is a by Sarah McLean of Rockies Girl. She provides several helpful pointers on getting outside with a baby and toddler. As a mom of two kids 20 months apart, I can totally relate!
Before my son, Baby Bear, was born, I felt like we had gotten into a groove in terms of family outings with my daughter (Little Bear). We knew how far she liked walking, how to dress her for various temperatures, what would motivate her to keep walking, and how long she’d be happy sitting in the car/carrier. I remembered the learning curve involved in getting one baby out and was a little apprehensive about how it would be getting a toddler AND a baby out of the house!  Turns out it wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated though there were a few lessons I learned the hard way (snacks, don’t EVER forget toddler snacks!). Here’s what my experience looked like and a few things I learned along the way.
A chilly morning toddler hike on Fenland Trail
Image Credit: Sarah McLean, Rockies Girl

The first few months

When my husband and I are new to an area and wander around trying to figure out the best things to do, we joke that it is an exploratory mission.  I decided this was going to be my mindset the winter my son was born.  I tried to get out as much as possible on walks/outings with Baby Bear (while big sis was with the grandparents) to get used to his sleeping, eating, and transportation preferences.  My son was completely different in temperament and personality to my daughter so it was nice to get his routine down pat before adding in the toddler.

Getting out with a non-mobile baby and toddler

As spring rolled around, I was excited to get into more of a routine of getting outside with both kids.  No winter clothes = way easier to get out! Here are some tips to make outings go more smoothly:
  • Plan ahead. It’s easiest to start with familiar, close locations at first. Inviting friends is also key. Not only for toddler entertainment, but for you! A stressful morning can be erased by a good laugh with friends. And friends usually have extras if you forget anything.
  • Pack as much as possible the night before, in the car if possible. This includes snacks, extra clothes, diaper bags, strollers, run bike, etc.
  • Organize your diaper bag. I use the packing cubes from MEC and have one for each kid with an extra outfit, diapers, sweater, hat & sunglasses. I also brought an emergency “fun bag” for the toddler with chalk, bubbles, a ball, and a shovel and pail.
  • Start with shorter outings. As you get more comfortable you can extend it to longer outings including lunch.
  • Feed everyone before you leave and be back home for lunch/naps. This allows you to get into a groove with fewer variables at first.
  • However long you think you need to get ready, double it! It’s much more relaxing to be early and go for a drive-thru coffee first.
Some of our favorite outings included trips to local parks to go on a nature walk or playground meet ups.

Getting Ready for Bigger Trips

Our first out-of-town trip with both kids involved a 1.5 hr car ride each way. We discovered that unlike his sister, Baby Bear did not like to nap in his carseat. After that we decided to start with closer trips and work our way up to something longer. This allowed us to do half day trips where we could be back home for afternoon naps and possibly lunch if we left early enough! We also discovered that packing everything the night before was key.  Carriers, strollers, diaper/hiking bags, and a reusable grocery bag of extra layers for each person was all in the car the night before. Food was packed in a bag in the fridge.  In the morning we’d dress in whatever layers we wanted to wear in the car, grab our food and leave.
Exploring the Banff Gondola catwalk with the bear cubs.
Great views and hot chocolate waiting inside the main building.
Image Credit: Sarah McLean, Rockies Girl

Do I need a double stroller?

For the first few months, we didn’t need a double stroller as I was either going out with just the baby or if I went out with both, the toddler could use our single Chariot/BOB stroller and baby went in a carrier.  As Baby Bear got older and was better able to sit, we bought a Chariot Cougar 2. It gave me more options as both kids could sit in it (though usually it was one at a time), and I had more room to bring a bike, toys, diaper bag, food, etc.
 Exploring a close area, Forget-Me-Not Pond!
Great for morning excursions so you can be back home for naps. 
Baby bear was tucked away in the Chariot with his dad.
Image Credit: Sarah McLean, Rockies Girl


In the end, I think the best advice for getting out is to know yourself and know your kids. Every family is different. Each parent and each kid has a different personality and likes/dislikes. Try not to compare your family to others. Getting outside is meant to be a time to refresh your batteries and provide a breath of fresh air (literally!) and each family will find their own way to achieve this. Pack as much as it makes sense to bring, pack as much as you can the night before, and don’t forget a coffee for yourself!

About Sarah

Sarah is a hiker, climber, skier and outdoor mama to two little ones. She lives in Calgary, Alberta and enjoys adventures both big and small in mountains or in the city. Read more on her blog: Rockies Girl, or follow her on Twitter @cdnrockiesgirl, or Instagram @cdnrockiesgirl.

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