Monday, August 20, 2012

8 Ways to Successful Outdoor Activities with Kids

I have 3 wonderful boys. I have always loved all things outdoors. I had some great guy friends in high school and college who helped me keep my interests alive and introduced me to new adventures. After that I married my husband who, at that time in life, had been a backpack guide, an excellent rock climber, a skier, a sponsored snowboarder and an avid fly fisherman. Together we took up mountain biking, road biking, backpacking, telemark skiing and much more.

Now, back to the 3 wonderful boys. You see, they didn't stand a chance. They have been in baby packs, bike trailers, etc. since they were 6 weeks old.

I definitely wanted my children to love the outdoors and the peace and clarity that comes with each outdoor experience. I did not want them to start to dislike the opportunities to admire and reflect on the creations of this world.

My all time favorite photo of my son fly fishing.
As my husband and I talked it over, we decided to do what we could to help them learn to love it. Our children, although still young, are a bit older than when we started 12 years ago and we have learned a few thing over the years.

1. Purchase quality clothing for the activity. One reason our children love to be in the outdoors snowshoeing or skiing is that they have the gear to keep them warm. This is such as important thing. I have seen children come ill-prepared to an outdoor activity and by the time it is over they have decided to greatly dislike the activity. Spend the extra money and get the gear that will keep them dry, warm and comfortable. Quality gear in my experience, lasts long enough to hand down from child to child without wearing out. Although you may pay more up front, in the end the return is great.

So he may be a bit overdressed to ride his trike :)
2. Purchase shoes and gear from a reputable store like REI that stands behind the products. Just this week we took back 2 pairs of hiking boots. Each of the boots had an open eyelet break off. One pair was only 2 weeks old and had broke the first day of scout camp on the hike (the boots were over $100) and the other pair had been worn by one child for a season and saved for my youngest. REI was great and refunded the money ...without a sideways glance, so we were able to purchase them each another pair of hiking boots. If the feet are comfortable it makes the day much more enjoyable for all.

Good shoes are needed when they find gems like this climbing rock.
3. Make sure the child is comfortable. For example, if the child is in a bike trailer make sure he has water, snacks, an activity (crayons/paper, electronic learning games, books, etc) and maybe a pillow and blanket.
Yes. We gave him the cell phone to take pictures while in the bike trailer.
4. Keep them hydrated. Camelbacks and other water reservoirs are perfect for the small hikers. They often don't drink until they are thirsty. That can lead to a bad situation. With water on my boys back they seem to drink more and overall end up being happier during our adventures. My husband has started to carry a water filter with us on longer hikes. As long as there is water nearby, we don't need to worry about running out.

5. Sunblock is a must. Nothing is worse than realizing that you forgot to apply sunblock to your child and now they are red and irritable.

6. Have fun with them. Make the experience memorable and interesting because they have fun with mom and/or dad. Take time to build a snowman, have water fights, look at the fish in the river, have adventures or whatever else presents itself as an opportunity. We play games while hiking like hiding and scaring the next group. We have taken kites to the tops of peaks to fly them. We have stopped to watch a small bird learning to hunt and being taught by its parent. We have awed over 2 moose swimming the lake and playing. Having fun is something adults sometimes need to remember to do.

7. My boys would argue that this next point is the most important of all. Food. Always bring extra. Sometimes all the kids need is a pick me up...otherwise known as a snack in our home. My boys are always hungry. When they aren't hungry they are happier and more cooperative.

Another tip for those of you with infants. When I started taking my kids in the bike trailer I found it is much easier to keep them in their car seats and then strap the car seat into the bike trailer. This allows the head and neck to be supported until they are old enough to sit upright. My boys always fell asleep on the ride so I made sure to take them during nap time.