I’d love tips on how to motivate/interest a toddler in hiking on his own. We’ve surpassed the age where our kiddo is comfortably (for everyone) transported via a carrier. Snacks have been helpful as are interesting sites but I would love any other insider tricks the community might have.
When my daughter was a toddler she always did better on a hike if there was an interesting destination at the end, like a waterfall or hot spring. She wasn't into hiking just to see scenery but if there was an actual destination at the end that would be interesting she was all in with no whining! Good luck and happy trails!
My grandson, 6, enjoys hiking, but is extraordinarily curious. My daughter and son-in-law let him set the pace with his various stops. He loves having his own canteen -- got a "leather" one from Western National Parks Association that holds about 1/2 liter. Looks cool, not too heavy. Snacks are big, especially letting him carry his own.
He got to pick out his gear, but the big leap forward was getting him a cheap kids trekking pole.
Know the trail in advance in terms of things that will be interesting to look for -- wildflowers, birds, tree types, etc. and prep in advance of the hike to look for X. Make a game out of it.
I know a lot of replies involve snacks so I will try and stay away from that.
Consider making it excitable. Lets say you are hiking in Wisconsin on the Ice Age Trail... Consider studying up on the different wildlife, plants and vegitation along the area you are hiking. Being able to identify and educate along the hike would be a huge plus as well as preplanning activities such as swimming in a lake/river and such. Is this toddler old enough to use a camera? This could be another cool tool to get them excited.
I would recommended combing a book of instects with photography and as they photograph each one cross it off of a list. This could also lead to an amazing hobby and even a future skill. One plus is you can help them learn the camera by photographing things around your yard, the community and local parks before a hike, plus they will be able to create their own memories as they go thru life.
Also, brush up on bushcraft and get them involved in learning survival skills, bushcraft and camping essentials. Being able to make fire using a bow method, or knowing how to differentiate between poison and edible plants, could make a great game and camp activity. I recommend using "The Ultimate Survival Guide" by John Lofty Wiseman (otherwise I have a variety of books for free to download on my website heartwoodphoto.com).
If your trying to avoid snacks, the above are great skill training and games that can lead to motivation, future use and also encourage a lifetime of seeking adventure.