Consider this: “We think in words, and these words have the power to limit us or to set us free; they can frighten us or evoke our courage. Similarly, the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives eventually becomes our lives.”
Dan Baker, What Happy People Know
Try This: Affirmations. I used to roll my eyes at the idea of affirmations, but science has shown us that affirmations are in fact a way to help alter our internal dialogue, that will otherwise gladly tell us: we aren’t good enough, smart enough, we’ll fail etc. For many of us if we let our subconsciouses run wild they will chatter at us in negative and anxiety ridden tones. It takes work to change our narratives but one of the most powerful ways we can do that is through affirmations.
Below you’ll find affirmations for most situations! It can sound so silly when you first start saying them. But other ways I like to incorporate affirmations are:
Write it on a sticky note and put it on a mirror you look at daily
Pick one or two to say daily at a specific time (ie: waking up / going to bed / rocking your kid etc.)
Save an affirmation as the background on your phone, when you’re going into a tough situation or experience. It’s the perfect easy reminder to see some words that should bring you calmness or courage!
Let’s talk IG vs. reality… On the daily instagram serves us ultra-curated snippets of perfection. Perfect angles, perfect lighting, spotless homes with farm sinks and all white aesthetics. And then the holidays hit and it multiplies – elaborate family costumes, porches decorated to the nines, kids smiling in photos. It is so easy to scroll on social media and feel like you aren’t doing, buying, planning, being “enough”. This Monday Mindset is here to remind you are enough and your reality is beautiful even if it looks nothing like one of those curated squares. Let go of the pressures to do/be/buy more & instead just be. Let’s embrace the parts of the holidays we truly enjoy and let the rest of the expectations go! This halloween is completely different for us, because everyone is sick. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt the pangs of disappointment that Will is missing wearing his costume to school and their Halloween Party, but at the end of the day I’m disappointed because I’m attached to that expectation. As soon as I let go of all the expectations I had and welcomed our reality it felt easier to shift gears and decide to make the most of our halloween at home this year. So whether you’re a crafty mom, and event planning mom, an amazon prime mom or some combo like most of us, here’s your reminder to leave your phone in the other room, let go of whatever expectations you’re putting on yourself. The funny thing is when we take a deep breath and slow down and be, our kids mirror that energy and you might just get a genuine smile.
For years I bought into the limiting belief that I’m not a morning person, my old night shift working self loved spending all day in bed and having breakfast at 4pm. Now fast-forward to having two toddlers. Sleeping in all day just isn’t a possibility anymore. But I also quickly learned that mornings where I got up a 15-30 minutes before my kids I was suddenly more patient, calm, I felt like the morning started on my terms instead of whatever meltdown my three year was gonna choose to have at 7am. If you’ve tried waking up early and are in a constant standoff between you and the snooze button here are some tips that have helped me skip the snooze and get my mornings off to a more peaceful, intentional start!
Lay your clothes out – have your clothes for the morning already set out. Whether you’re headed to work or working out, having your clothes picked out the night before makes getting dressed something you can do while still half asleep. There’s no riffling for that pair of legging you swore was clean. Have everything you need right there so you can shut your alarm off and start changing!
Charge your phone across the room – This is the change that has helped me the MOST when it comes to getting up early… Having to physically get out of bed to shut your alarm off means your feet are on the ground and you’re physically “up”. You have to then make a decision of if you want to get back in bed. The snooze button and I have our battles but I know that button would be undefeated if I it was directly next to my bed. Bonus about charing your phone across the room is you cut down on mindless scrolling in bed, which gets me to sleep faster at night!
Have a plan – Take a few minutes the night before and know what your plan is in the morning. Will you be working out, will you be taking your dog for a walk, getting some work tasks off your list? Reading? Our brains will look for any excuse or reason to push snooze. By taking a few minutes to plan ahead, having your laptop charged and set up so you can start on your list, knowing exactly what workout or where you’ll walk your dog, keeps us from having to make these decisions in the moment when we’re struggling to wake up already!
Go to bed early – The best way to ensure you wake up earlier is to get more sleep!! Waking up earlier actually starts the night before. If i’m in bed after 11 the chances of my morning ritual happening are low!! Stop sacrificing tomorrow by staying up late the night before.
Look forward to something – this can be a hot shower after your workout, your cup of coffee, getting to read uninterrupted, a delicious breakfast, enjoying the silence before your kids wake up. Having something you look forward to in the morning helps your brain remember why we’re dragging ourselves out of bed!
It’s Sunday night, I scroll pinterest for “healthy” dinner ideas, saving “at home arms & abs” workouts. I tell myself this Monday will be different. This time I’m really going to stick to my goals. Monday I’m on fire, but by the end of the week my plan has gone off the rails and I’ve thrown in the towel again, wondering what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t stick to my plan… gearing up to tell myself next Monday it will be different. And so the exhausting cycle continues. I spent a decade living in this cycle. Constantly making and breaking promises to myself. Having the pendulum swing from overly ambitious fitness goals to binge eating taco bell in my car alone. I subscribed to toxic fitness myths that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, I tracked calories, I held the unhealthy belief that food was something to be earned. I thought if I saw a certain number on the scale that would mean success. I took every fresh start I could and it would burn hot and bright but only for a moment. And then I would find myself right back where I started, never reaching any goals & not feeling any better. The constant starting and stopping, the feeling of defeat before I even started felt never ending. But I’m going to share how I broke this cycle, how I became consistent and found a way to enjoy movement, how I helped mend my relationship with food.
I prioritized – the simple unsexy truth is: I cut the crap and prioritized 20-30 min 3 – 4 days a week. I don’t have some secret abundance of extra time laying around but I MAKE the time. We live in a society that tells us a “good” mom gives absolutely everything for her children regardless of the toll it takes on her. I call bullshit on that. As moms we wear a hundred different hats, and it’s easy to feel like nothing is ours when we spend our days giving so much to everyone else. But this 30 minutes is mine. It isn’t for anyone else but me! It gives me more energy, patience, confidence, and strength than any bubble bath or night out ever could. I learned to protect this tiny window of time and make it happen more days than not, because at the end of the day only you can make YOU a priority.
I broke up with my all or nothing mindset – Life is not all or nothing. Being healthy or fit isn’t comprised of perfection it’s built upon dozens of small choices we make day in and day out that compound over time. It’s moving your body more days than not. It’s going to bed 20 min earlier, it’s drinking water before a meal, it’s eating less out of boxes and more real food, it’s getting outside, it’s carving out stillness. It’s showing yourself kindness and focusing on building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down. I accepted the imperfect workouts where a toddler joined me, or a nap was cut short. I learned showing up imperfectly four days a week would carry me further than to show up for one perfect day.
I simplified. If a new habit is gonna stick it needs to be as easy and resistance free as possible. After having kids the logistical struggle of coordinating childcare and then finding motivation to use that precious kid-free time at the gym was just not a reality for me. I’m also not a personal trainer, I don’t enjoy or have the mental capacity to create my own workouts. I need it to be simple, straightforward and requiring as few decisions from me as possible. I found a netflix for workouts that I can do anywhere. I started in our tiny living room in San Francisco with a set of 5 pounds weights. I picked a 21 day program to do over 31 days and I simply started. Remember, you don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step.
Lead by example: I thought about the message and the example I wanted to set for my boys. Do I really want them to view exercise as a way to punish our bodies for things that we eat? Do I want them to moralize food as “good” or “bad”. I though hard about the message I wanted to send them. And I decided I want them see movement and exercise is a way to thank and care for our bodies. I want them to view food as fuel for your body. I want them to know what science has shown us, that movement boosts happiness, decreases risks for depression, improves sleep, strengthens muscles and bones, cuts our cancer and diabetes risks, reduces pain, energizes us, helps our immune system, the list goes on and on. There are dozens upon dozens of reasons to exercise & eat well. I want them to be able to think of 100 reasons to move and have none of them to be about the way their body looks or a number on a scale. We create our children’s inner dialogues and the same way we teach them to have healthy relationships with peers we also wield the power to teach healthy relationships with food and exercise and the most powerful and meaningful way to teach them is to be an example of healthy relationships.
I swapped motivation for discipline – I stopped letting motivation be the determining factor of whether or not I was going to do my workout. Because the truth is motivation is unreliable. More days than not it is nowhere to be found, so instead I lean on discipline. It’s okay that I’m not motivated, I’m still going to follow through on my commitment because I know how I’ll feel afterward. Honoring our commitments builds momentum. If I had an obligation to a friend I wouldn’t break that promise so it’s time to treat myself like a good friend.
I found gratitude – I stopped viewing working out as a burden. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a body that can move and lift and jump and run and carry my babies. Why I am a purposefully turning a blessing into a burden?? Instead I shifted my mindset to one of immense gratitude. Gratitude for all my body has done for me over the last 30 years. The miles it’s carried me, the heart and breath that go on without thought, the safe home it’s grown and then nourished multiple babies from. Why would I want to punish my body when all she truly deserves is thanks.
80/20 – I unsubscribed from thinking carbs were evil. I quit eliminating entire food groups, I don’t track macros or count calories. I don’t tell myself I can’t eat something that I love. That’s not living and it is not sustainable. If your plan is restriction based that’s where you’ll have serious back slides, fueled with resentment. Instead, 80% of the time I focus on more water, more protein and more vegetables. And 20% I eat what I want, without guilt. The without guilt is key. I order my five guys burger and milkshake or get pizza and drink wine on Friday nights and don’t worry about how many calories are in it or how much cardio will be required to even it out. I don’t have to fill myself with guilt because I know I’ll be back to my 80% tomorrow. This allows to me eat Halloween candy or bake Christmas cookies or get cocktails and dessert on date night and truly ENJOY it, giving myself this 20% of guiltless freedom makes the 80% doable.
I keep grace in my back pocket – This journey is not about perfection. So we have to take a little pressure off ourselves. There will be sick kids, unexpected errands, injuries, travel, sleepless nights, or days our bodies yearn for rest. So I’ve learned how to extend grace and be gentle with myself. And when I get off track, when a day or two off turns into a week, I pick up right where I left off. I don’t spend time beating myself up about it, I let go of any shame or guilt or thoughts of failure and I simply choose to show up again.
There is no finish line when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle – so it is KEY to find sustainable habits that fit into your life no matter what season you might be in. We love to dramatically overcomplicate fitness and then wonder why we aren’t seeing results or feeling the benefits. I hope this post encourages you and helps you shift some mindset blocks you might have when it comes to working out. Not only have my home workouts helped me lose 40 pounds (not once but twice!) they have truly been a gateway to immense personal development and growth! And if you’re curious about what programs I use, if you want an accountability buddy or just have questions feel free to reach out. I’m an open book about my fitness journey & would love to help another mom create this space for herself!
We think it’s the happy experiences, the birthdays, the week long vacations, the promotions, that make us happy in life, but it’s not. Ultimately what allows us to find happiness and joy even for the smallest moments is in fact, hardships. How can you appreciate the warm sun on your face, if you’ve never known what it feels to be cold. The same is true in life. Glennon Doyle reminds us “The truest, most beautiful life never promises to be an easy one. We need to let go of the lie that it’s supposed to be”
All of our lives are shaped by a mix of circumstances, choices and luck or lack thereof. And “being happy” is deeply connected to our ability to find joy and optimism regardless of our circumstances.
Consider This: “Your worst memories don’t go away and they don’t get better. But you can get better. You are more than the sum of your suffering.”
Dan Baker, What Happy People Know
Your struggles ultimately leave you with this choice of allowing them to shape you for better or for worse. Choosing to do so isn’t as simple as a flick of a switch. It takes acknowledgment and reflection. For me personally, writing about my experiences has been key to allowing myself to learn and grow from that experience. I wrote a post about Chris’ encephalitis and how I really struggled to process that experience. A textbook trauma response to a situation I had yet to really come to terms with. I so desperately wanted to step around it, vehemently resisting reliving it or talking about it. I simply wanted to “move on”. The funny thing about trauma is, it doesn’t work that way. The harder you slam the door shut on it & the stronger it will boomerang back bursting open. Ignoring hardships or choosing not to engage is not processing. And you certainly can get better by ignoring it.
No matter what your struggles are, big or small they play a key role in your mindset. If you’ve allowed every struggle, every misstep to accumulate, if you’re holding on to blame, and grief, and anger it is undoubtedly weighing you down. Dan Baker puts it simply “other people can hurt your, but only you can victimize yourself”.
If you play this life game long enough you realize that bad ish happens to everyone. Even the happiest person you know has not had a life free from suffering. The magic happens in your response when life is throwing obstacles in your way. We get the opportunity to write our narrative. The story we tell ourselves becomes our life.
Try This: Harness your own hardships
Write! This is my biggest tip for transforming hardship. Write. Write about what it was like. The way it made you feel, give actual names to emotions that come up: helpless, disappointed, lonely, anxious, jealous etc. Whether it was a job you didn’t get, a string of bad luck, whether it was something life altering or something on a smaller scale, these are all opportunities for us to grow. You know how you feel better after a good cry, writing is very similar. You’re able to empty out your mind and your emotions and often will feel a weight lifted.
Reflect on the story you’re telling yourself – is it one of blame, insecurity, anger? Or is it a story that is hopeful, perseverant, joyful, energetic? The words we tell ourselves our incredibly powerful.
Give yourself time – Not every hardship is created equal. Some may effect us for longer or just take more time to sort through. And that is okay, after Chris was in the ICU I so badly just wanted to snap my fingers and for life go back to normal. When in reality it would take over a year before he felt like himself again & it would take me a whole other year to process from that experience.
Ask yourself “what can I learn from this experience”… Once you start writing a page or two a funny thing happens it all pours out!
Personal development can get a bad rap, mostly from people who never read it, however, it opens your mind and increases a narrative of positivity, meaningfulness and can really help combat some negative talk tracks we have playing in our minds subconsciously. So for today’s Monday Mindset I thought I’d share 5 personal development books that really empowered me & left their mark. Narrowing this list down to 5 was not easy…
Think Like a Monk – Jay Shetty grew up in a family where you could be: a doctor, a lawyer or a failure. He ditched his college graduation and flew to India to become a monk, meditating for hours a day and devoting his life to helping others. This book recounts the lessons, the mindset, and the knowledge he gained at the ashram in Mumbai and his re-entering of society three years later. This book is meant to show how you can incorporate this way of thinking and living in order to find your own peace and happiness without having to fly across the world and check in to a monastery.
Breathe Mama Breathe – Bite size mindfulness for mamas. Short 5 min reads and exercises about how to intertwine mindfulness into your daily busy life. Brimming with great quotes about mindfulness and motherhood. This book really set me on my own journey of mindfulness and meditation. I was gifted this book by a dear friend at my baby shower and it took me nearly 4 years and 2 babies later to finally read it. But it was the message I needed at the perfect time. And it was my personal gateway to mindfulness and meditation.
Atomic Habits – This practical, to the point book about how to transform your habits is a must read! James Clear is all about tiny changes and big results. This book will have you re-evaluating your habits, finding ways to make them easy, obvious and satisfying. His gives concrete tips, and endorses the idea that immense change happens slowly and consistently. If you read one book off this list, make it THIS one!
What Happy People Know – Dan Baker dives into the science of happiness, the happiness traps we set for ourselves: attempting to buy happiness, trying to be happy by resolving the past, trying to force happiness to name a few. He also shares six simple skills that we all can practice to boost our own happiness. He talks about how his own happiness journey emerged from tragedy. This book is a great reminder of what really matters in this life.
The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin, realizes she can’t just uproot her busy NYC life with her two daughter and move to Bali to “be happier” so she goes on a mission to find ways to make her current life happier. She spends each month focused on different areas of her life. This book is a great reminder that when it comes to happiness there’s a lot of low hanging fruit for boosting happiness under our own roofs.
If I were to look back and try to pinpoint what set in motion all my mindset and habit changes over the last four years, one thing in particular stands out. Waking up ahead of my kids… This ability to safeguard a little bit of time for myself at the beginning of each day without a doubt transformed my motherhood.
When I started waking up early I was pregnant with Johnathan, Will had dropped down to one nap a day. Suddenly I was scrambling for time to get things done, uninterrupted. My day would start with fussing and crying and I would instantly feel behind. I had started my coaching business, and my to-do lists were long. I was feeling frustrated, short tempered and was quickly realizing I needed to change something. I started small, just 15 minutes ahead of when Wills sound machine would click off. I’d take a few minutes to wake up, maybe jot down a plan for the day, wash my face in silence, sit and pet Juno. This quickly increased to me waking up 30 min early so I could get my workout done first thing. An amazing thing happens when you start giving your body and your mind this space. You begin to CRAVE this silence, this peace. I pretty quickly noticed a shift. Mornings where I didn’t get up early felt tense, I was easily thrown into a bad mood, I was on edge. Mornings where I gave myself a few minutes to wake up allowed for a sense of calm and the ability to handle whatever came at me!
Now I know what you’re thinking “there’s no way I could wake up any earlier than I have to”, stick with me here. I want to be clear, I was never a morning person. I love to sleep in. My former nightshift self relished in getting to sleep until 5pm. However, for the season of life I’m in, with young children, sleeping in is not only unattainable but also not functional or efficient for my life. In this season, when my kids are at home the majority of the day and still need me for many things, I need to front-load my day. When I do this I’m happier, I’m more patient, I’m certainly more productive. I’m able to approach my kids and my family from a place of calm and compassion. Instead of waking to the onslaught of toddler demands, I’m able to exert a little control in how I start my day. If I want to listen to a podcast, if I want to sit in silence and drink coffee, if I want to meditate outside, I can. When I give myself this gift of space and time to wake up, I’m no longer thrown off or upset when I find my two year olds night time diaper malfunctioned or whatever unforeseen event is waiting for me when the rest of the house wakes up. The reality is there are few places throughout your day where you’re able to find some extra time, so giving yourself even a 15 minute cushion of time in the morning allows for you to feel less stressed and more prepared for the day. As mothers we act from a place of servitude, however resentment can rear it’s ugly head when you feel like you’re serving others from the moment your eyes open each day until you fall in bed that night.
** Important caveat here – there are seasons of your life where this is not possible and sleep takes priority, hello newborn bubble. If you are in a season like this, grace. Grace is your biggest friend. Give yourself a big serving of grace, take seconds if you need to, and know that this season will pass **
We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic but what it is a profound failure of self respect and of priorities. Then nearly a quarter of us do something else that starts us out on the second wrong foot of the day. We reach for our cell phones within one minute of waking up. Over half of us are checking messages within ten minutes. The majority of people go from out cold to processing mountains of information within minutes every morning. There are only six cars that can go from zero to sixty in under two seconds. Like most cars, humans are not built for that kind of sudden transition, mentally or physically.
Dan Baker, What Happy People Know
Try this: skip the AM scroll.
Pick a day or two this week to set your alarm 15-20 min early & hold off on immediately scrolling, instead focus on a transition. When we immediately start our days by staring into our prized little rectangles we are giving our energy to other peoples messages, emails, we begin subconsciously comparing and our minds are instantly drawn to things we thing we “should” be doing. When we start our days with high pressure or high stress, we program ourselves to stay in that state the rest of the day and it can be hard to self correct out. By giving ourselves even just a few minutes to transition we can drastically alter the tone of the day.
I’ll share the framework of my morning routine in an upcoming post, but know, it has seen many iterations through the years. And ultimately our needs and circumstances are all different. Some women will want this time to read, to make lists, to workout, to pray or to run their businesses. What works for me in this particular season may not serve you as well. It’s less about how you fill this time and more about creating time that serves YOU. If spending 5 min unloading the dishwasher before everyone is up will make you feel on top of your game do it. If spending 15 min reading while you drink coffee will energize you do it. Consider you pain-points. What is making your morning feel chaotic… is it trying to get ready while little hands grab at you, is it never having time or motivation to workout, is it trying to prep school lunches and make breakfast? Most of our morning tasks can be completed much faster when we’re alone, it’s those tiny people that drag efficiency down… love em’ but it’s true!
I would love to hear if you already do this, or if this is something you’ve tried but struggled with or something you’ve just never considered. For me, waking up 30 – 40 earlier than my kids gives me vastly more energy than staying in bed would for that same amount of time. It sets my day off on the right foot, I dictate the tone and the energy. Try it and see how your motherhood transforms!
A series I’m launching where every Monday I’ll share some mindset inspiration to start the week. Our mindset can propel us forward, into a state of gratitude and abundance or it can constrict us, keep us stuck in negativity, paralyzed by anxiety and self limiting beliefs. We’ve all had days where we oversleep, leave our coffee on the counter, hit unexpected traffic, have a rude interaction, and it sets us on this spiral of “everything is going wrong today” and yes objectively things may not have gone the way we expected but only we have the power to guide our minds out of this negativity trap. We all have the opportunity within us to begin again whenever we choose fit. As mothers our mood, our demeanor, our reactions are the unspoken propellent within our households. Our children can easily sense how we feel. If our mindset is chaotic, riddled with anxiety or stress, our children absorb these emotions just as easily as they take on our joy and our calm. Regardless of our efforts to conceal these feelings; the reality is what we feel, our families feel.
It’s no exaggeration when I say the benefits from this mindset work have rippled out into my motherhood, my marriage, my friendships, my nursing career. I feel called to write about this process. And to use this series as a way to share some of the lessons, tips and insights I have learned and adopted over the last few years. Exposing what has helped me move away from a place of stress, anger, negativity and led me to finding joy amidst the chaos, and given me the power of self forgiveness when my old ways resurface. Admittedly I am no expert, but I am extremely passionate about this ever long journey of our mindsets. Everything I share here, is what I work on myself and are the tools that have led me away from simply reacting out of habit to every unpleasant bump or allowing myself to succumb to the weight of modern motherhood. Most mothers will agree, raising humans is the hardest, most challenging yet simultaneously beautiful thing you’ll experience. But if your mindset is stuck in a negativity loop you’ll struggle to be present and feel the joy and love of the beautiful parts. I hope this series enables you to slow down, to feel more present, more grounded and more joyful in your life and in your motherhood. If you’re curious what sparked my personal journey inward, I share a lot about the catalyst that truly started it all for me in the post The Monday in March That Started It All .
“Happiness is neither a mood nor an emotion. Mood is a biochemical condition and emotions are just transitory feelings. Happiness is a way of life – an overriding outlook composed of qualities such as optimism, courage, love and fulfillment.It is nothing less than cherishing each day.” – Dan Baker (author of What Happy People Know)
Try This: Try a daily gratitude practice. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or in depth. Take 3 min before bed and jot down a few things to be thankful for, the smaller the better!
Why This? It’s easy to be grateful for your health, your kids, your home, but finding gratitude and joy in the little things is where the mindset shift truly happens. Noticing the warm dog curled up at your feet, the close parking spot, the impromptu hug from your kid, the cool breeze, the hot shower, the zoom call that got cancelled; the little things are the big things. We are often racing through our lives on auto pilot, you know the feeling when you drive somewhere and then suddenly have little recollection of the actual drive? So many of us, especially moms are moving from moment to moment like this. Training our brains to find gratitude in daily life brings about mindfulness. At first it might be hard to recall the little things throughout your day that you’re grateful for, but it gets easier the more we use our gratitude muscle! Mindfulness flips this autopilot switch off. It encourages us to be present for our lives and notice all the little things that really do go right. If we are only ever focusing on the negative that is all we will see. So try this gratitude practice & see what happens! Worst case? You’re the new owner of a little notebook or a scrap of paper with a list of good things 🙂
I’m not entirely sure how it’s already back to school season, but here we are! I wanted to share some of the items I discovered and loved last year for my preschooler & a lot of these I repurchased now that Johnathan is also headed to preschool this year!
Simply Modern Water bottles – These water bottles are leak proof & are a staple in our house, plus they’re a little cheaper than the hydroflask guys!
Toddler Size Backpack – an appropriate toddler sized backpack can be hard to find. Last year I definitely sent will to school with a backpack that was wayyy to big. So this year both the boys are going with these!
Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizer – this is the only hand sanitizer Will will tolerate on his hands. It doesn’t dry your hands out and it smells like christmas, without all the harsh chemicals!!
Bento Box Lunchboxes – love these reusable bento lunch boxes. These drastically cut down on single use plastics! Plus this year I’ll be packing lunches in bulk!
Waterproof Name Labels – Probably my favorite item! These name labels either for clothing or supplies are dishwasher and washing machine safe. After a full year of preschool of the stickers I used are still intact, after many loads through the wash! This year I got some with the boys last name large and their names smaller because I know they’ll be interchanging waterbottles / lunchboxes. Plus they are totally customizable and come in so many designs / colors!!
If you have a favorite back to school item I’d love to hear what it is!
This summer we chose Arches for our National Park in Utah to explore with the boys! Today I’m sharing our overall experience, the hikes we managed, gluten free food we found & the accommodations so you can make the most of your trip! We have made it a goal to take them to one park a year if possible. You can see our winter trip to Yosemite last year here .
I found Arches to be very family friendly and very manageable when it came to a National Park. It’s a fairly small park only about 1/10 the size of Yosemite so driving through the park, hiking and exploring felt less daunting! There was no shortage of short easy hikes some that were even stroller friendly. We saw tons of families enjoying the park & would say it’s toddler approved!
The Windows: This was the longest hike we did with the boys! But it was definitely one of the most beautiful! This hike definitely has some incline & lots of steps, but is 1 mile round trip with phenomenal views at the top!
Balanced Rock: Stroller Friendly 0.3 mile loop hike with tons of photo ops! This is a great one to save as a second activity of the day! You can see balanced rock from the road but the loop trail has next to no elevation gain and is mostly paved making it super accessible for kids!
Double Arch: Take this 0.6 mile hike to see the tallest arch in the park! This relatively flat packed gravel hike leads to 2 gorgeous arches. You could easily take a stroller right up to the base of the arch!
Delicate Arch Viewpoint: Lower viewpoint is stroller friendly – we didn’t use the stroller but wish we had! By the time we did this one the boys were pooped, it was peak heat in the day so needless to say we didn’t stay long. This viewpoint is wheelchair accessible and only about 200ft, but for a tired, overheated toddler you might opt for the stroller!
Sand Dune Arch: This was on our list but we didn’t get to hike this. This 0.4 mile hike is listed as a popular hike for kiddos! But as the name eludes to there’s lots of sand so plan accordingly!
*If you’re planning a trip in the summer I can’t recommend these cooling towels enough! They’re ultra light weight and you simply pour water on them when you’re ready to cool off! We used these everyday we were out in the park & they’ll definitely be a summer staple!
Accommodations: We stayed at Springhill Suites in Moab & LOVED it! If you’re visiting in the Summer this resort is amazing. They have two pools, a splashpad & 4 hot tubs including one that is considered a “warming tub” that is significantly less hot & geared towards littles! One of the pools is super shallow which was perfect for toddlers who are still getting the hang of swimming! They also have family suites that include bunk beds and a great free breakfast that starts at 6am which I never truly valued until I started traveling with kids!
Things to consider:
Time of year – the weather can certainly be a factor so if your trip is lined up for mid summer be sure to plan accordingly. The actual park does not have any food inside and you’re encouraged to bring a LOT of water with you inside the park. We went ahead and booked tickets for early morning entry & spent the morning in the park and left by noon when the temperatures were reaching their highest for the day!
Plan your days – My advice is to plan to do about 2 hikes or sights in the park per day if you have young kiddos, especially in the summer when the heat is no joke. We found it was to start with the longer hike & save something that is stroller friendly or shorter for the second half!
Expect / plan breaks – Toddlers are more than capable of enjoying and participating in hikes and national parks but planning in breaks is KEY. I recommend bringing some small toy for the halfway point of the hike. When we hiked The Windows hike I knew we’d want to stop at the top, rest, hydrate and admire the sights. Toddlers are less into pausing and soaking in the vastness… So I brought the boys little toy dinosaurs to play with at the top. I kept them in my backpack so there wasn’t any temptation beforehand and then it was a little surprise. Then I told them we had to pack them away so they could get down the hike safely again! This seriously bought us 20-30 min at the top, which allowed for both Chris and I to go see the views at the very top, and allowed for everyone to feel rested for the walk back!
Keep it fun – hiking in the heat, even short distances can be a lot for little kids. So keeping it fun and lighthearted is the best way to keep your toddler moving forward. We play red light / green light. Chase / stomp on each others shadows, play ispy, and look for little creatures and of course racing each other! These little distractions helped a ton with our kids and kept the carrying them to a minimum!
Food – Downtown Moab has a ton of options all within a 5 block radius. There was no shortage of gluten free options available.
Pasta Jays – gluten free pastas, garlic bread, huge portions and large outdoor patio!
Miguels Baja Cafe – Nearly everything here is gluten free unless otherwise noted! Super cute colorful outdoor area to eat!
Moab coffee roasters – affogatos to die for here.
Food Truck Park – A ton of food truck and a nice shaded square to enjoy your food!
Moab Giants: If you extra time this Dinosaur park is the best add on for your toddlers. It’s a few minutes from the park entrance and you can explore these life size replicas of Dinosaurs. They also have an air conditioned museum. We did this one morning instead of the National Park & the boys loved it!
All in all we had a great time at Arches, I think the boys were at a great age to experience this park & I didn’t feel like we missed out on much! Obviously the older your kids are the more they can hike and explore but I think for toddlers this park is perfect. There’s short hikes, minimal cliffs and plenty of beauty and nature to be appreciated!
I’d love to hear about other National Parks you think are great for kids! Every time we finish one of these trips it gets me so excited to research and plan our next park so I’m open to any and all suggestions!!