Summiting a fourteener is a Colorado rite of passage that requires mentally turning a mountain into a molehill. So we asked Colorado Mountain Club chief education officer and toddler mom Stacey Halvorsen how to prep little ones for big climbs.

1. Build stamina—not to mention resilience and confidence—with shorter excursions on smaller peaks. “I took my three-year-old to North Table Mountain,” Halvorsen says. “It was like Everest to him.”

2. Once Junior’s hiking boots are broken in and you think he or she is ready (age is just a number; you know your kid best), involve your grom in the planning process. If your children don’t feel like their opinions matter, they won’t feel invested in the hike.

3. Arrive at the trailhead early to accommodate your wee ones’ shorter strides, and agree on a turnaround time lest they’re surprised and disappointed. To keep them engaged and teach them risk management skills, make observations (I see dark clouds) and ask questions (Should we keep going?) along the way.

4. Songs, riddles, and breathing techniques (right foot inhale, left foot exhale) can lift the mood, but don’t be afraid to let your child work through challenges. “It’s OK to be in that moment,” Halvorsen says. Getting past negative feelings to achieve the goal is part of the lesson.

5. If they do want to turn back, Halvorsen suggests taking a 10-minute snack break to give them time to consider their options. Then respect their decision, whether it’s to head home or bag the peak.

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