Getting Outside: Urban Tyke Hike

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Written by: Rachel Kramer

Rachel Kramer recently began staying home with her son, Seth, age 2 1/2, after eleven years in nonprofit fundraising.  She has been an NPN member since 2009, and lives in the Ukrainian Village with her husband, Michael, and son.

With playgrounds, parks, museums and libraries at our fingertips, we city dwellers are lucky that we don’t have to travel far to enjoy engaging activities with our kids.

But what about when you have only 30 minutes, you’re not motivated to load everyone in the car, or you want your little ones to burn off some energy before naptime? Consider an urban hike, beginning right outside your door.

Almost immediately after learning to walk, our son began asking to “walk on feet.” I love the feeling of his little hand in mine, so we ventured out on a walk around our block.  During our “hikes” we comment on the scenery, admire flowers and chat about the weather. We notice the cars, buses and trucks and identify shapes and colors.

What began as a way to fill some extra time before lunch has become one of our favorite activities. Our son loves the power of walking on his own and the ability to look in all directions, which he can’t do from his stroller or backpack.

Here are some tips to make walks around your block memorable adventures:

  • Be safe. Insist that young children hold your hand and older ones stay within a safe distance.
  • When starting off, choose a back-and-forth route that keeps you close to home.
  • Create a familiar path that you can hike again and again. Your child will enjoy becoming familiar with what he sees along the way.
  • Remember that what’s insignificant to you is new and exciting to your little one: piles of leaves, cars, squirrels, doors and fences.
  • Dress for the weather and take a hike in the rain or snow.
  • Focus the hike on your child’s current interests. Right now, our son is obsessed with garage doors, so we often take the alley route.
  • Incorporate appropriate education. For our 2 year old, we count, name colors, and compare tall and short buildings.
  • Collect leaves or rocks for art projects. For older kids, bring the camera and let them photograph what they see.
  • Use all your senses: listen to the birds and ambulance sirens, smell restaurant aromas and touch leaves.
  • Talk about your hike after you return.

Raising children in the city has many benefits, but access to hiking trails can prove challenging. Thankfully, my toddler reminded me that our street is a hiking trail with much to enjoy.

Chicago families share fantastic advice on how to navigate parenting in the city in our NPN Parent to Parent Newsletter. Download the full NPN summer issue to read more! 

Posted on July 22, 2011 at 10:16 AM

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2 Replies

  • Great ideas

    Thanks for the reminder that everything is new and exciting to a toddler. :) I often walk around my block with my 21-month old, but always wonder if it's "boring" to him. I am going to incorporate some of your suggestions to make our urban hikes more interactive. We may start taking the alley route, too, as my son is also currently obsessed with garage doors. :) Thanks!

    by KrisN on 08/02 at 02:50PM

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  • Beautiful! We haven't done much hiking since we moved to Tx, but I'm eeixtcd to spend two weeks in PA and upstate NY in August, we already have several hikes planned. So glad you're joining the race!

    Beautiful! We haven't done much hiking since we moved to Tx, but I'm eeixtcd to spend two weeks in PA and upstate NY in August, we already have several hikes planned. So glad you're joining the race!

    by Viorel on 07/20 at 10:24AM

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