Hiking with family means discovering a new pace and taking time to enjoy the scenery!
Preparing your route:
Take the time to look carefully at the map and its contours or carry out a reconnaissance of the route.
Take the opportunity to check out the route and try to choose shady trails in summer - the whole family can keep cool and it will be better when taking breaks.
Given that a child of 3-4 years walks at about 1-2 km/h (and tends to keep stopping), guidebook estimates won't be particularly helpful because they show the time taken by an adult walker. Allow a safety margin, so you can enjoy your walk without worrying about the time.
Don't forget to check the local weather, and be prepared to give up in case of bad weather or if it's too cold. Children are a lot less robust than we are, and hiking should always be something they can enjoy.
Routes with mountain huts mean you can take a long break under cover.
Finally, avoid cable cars and chairlifts, which certainly require less effort but can cause decompression problems in young children.
Find the right pace:
Start with a few short, easy walks, and if you see that your child is doing well and getting the hang of it, gradually increase the difficulty of the route. In general, avoid very high altitudes (not recommended beyond 2000m).
Here are some guidelines on the altitude and distance of your excursion, to adjust based on your child's abilities:
> 0-18 months: no limitation since it's the person carrying them who's making all the effort. Make sure your trips out aren't too long, though, because your child will need to move about and take breaks, and make sure you don't overdo it in terms of altitude and exposure (be it too much sun or too cold).
> 18 months – 3 years: depending on how independent your child is, they might want to start doing part of the route themselves. But they will quickly become tired and will still need to take naps. So select relatively short routes (100-300 m in elevation) and some way of carrying them.
> 4-7 years: you can consider trips of 400-500 m in elevation / 6-7 km in distance, to be adapted to suit the age and level of independence of your child.