START YOUNG:

Sunday Tribune - - TRAVEL -

THREE weeks af­ter Shanti Hodges’s son, Ma­son, was born, she felt bliss­ful and anx­ious, fear­ful she would de­velop post-par­tum de­pres­sion.

She had long found so­lace in the out­doors, so she asked women in her new-mother’s group whether they would like to go on an 804m trail walk at a park near her home in Port­land, Ore­gon, in the US.

Hodges laughs at the me­mory of all the baby sup­plies she packed for that stroll back in 2013, where she was ac­com­pa­nied by a hand­ful of other women with their ba­bies. Sub­se­quent walks and longer hikes drew more and more adults with ba­bies and tod­dlers in tow.

Hodges ini­tially founded Hike it Baby as a news­let­ter and Face­book page. Within a year, the move­ment of fam­i­lies help­ing one an­other get out­side and on the trails had spread well be­yond the Port­land area.

Now Hike it Baby is an NPO with 650 vol­un­teer branch am­bas­sadors in all states and most ma­jor cities. It hosts about 2 500 out­ings a month.

“There’s a lot of in­for­ma­tion out there about how the out­doors is good for chil­dren, but it’s geared to school-age kids,” Hodges said. “But the pos­i­tive im­pact can be felt much ear­lier. The younger they start, the bet­ter. Their minds and bod­ies will to­tally thrive.”

Hodges re­cently wrote Hike it Baby: 100 Awe­some Ad­ven­tures with Ba­bies and Tod­dlers, on hikes suit­able for the younger set along with tips for tak­ing ba­bies and tod­dlers into na­ture.

Here are tips from Hodges and other par­ents and ex­perts.

Zoë Polk took her son, Quincy, to the beach near her San Fran­cisco home when he was 8 days old. “I just wanted him to ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery­thing: the sounds, smells, the wind.”

Since then, Quincy, now 2-and-ahalf years old, has ac­com­pa­nied her on dozens of hikes.

Min­nesota res­i­dents and ad­ven­ture blog­gers Maura and Bobby Marko run the Face­book group, Back­pack­ing With Ba­bies and Kids, and Maura is an am­bas­sador for Hike it Baby. They took Jack, 4, on his first hike when he was 2 weeks old, and daugh­ter Rowan, who is al­most 2, started even ear­lier.

As for tod­dlers, To­vah Klein, di­rec­tor of Barnard Col­lege Cen­tre for Tod­dler Devel­op­ment and au­thor of How Tod­dlers Thrive, ad­vises par­ents to take chil­dren that age out­side ev­ery day. “Out­doors, chil­dren aren’t be­ing told what to do, so they can dis­cover on their own,” said Klein, who started camp­ing with her chil­dren be­fore they were 2.

The younger they start, the bet­ter. Their minds and bod­ies will to­tally thrive

Shanti Hodges

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