I have two boys currently (a girl on the way!!) and I absolutely love snowshoeing! Seriously, I’m like a kid when the snow starts falling I race to the window and try to see if there is enough snow on the upper elevations for snowshoeing. I live in a beautiful part of Canada known as the Okanagan and we don’t get a ton of snow in the valley but its such a short drive to so many beautiful skiing and snowshoeing areas it’s really hard not to get into it. To be honest, my eldest son is so into snowshoeing but youngest…is so much more of a homebody and isn’t fond of snow just yet. We are a super active outdoor family so I am sure he will get used to it. But that has made snowshoeing a bit of a challenge when one child doesn’t care for it. Here is some of my best tips for the best snowshoe trips with small children.
Top Ten Tips for Snowshoeing With Small Kids
Number 1- Expectations
My hubby, as I have mentioned before, is particularly fit. While I am a work in progress, I am also more fit then some and was looking forward to burning some calories and advancing some cardio through snowshoeing. This is not so much when children are involved…course if you carry a child on your back as I am in the picture above, you may still find some cardio impact but what I am trying to say here is that small children have small legs plus snowshoes and a wonder for there environment means a slow trek through the woods with many stops to admire (or play!) with the snow. Don’t expect huge workout advantages with small kids. Expect that going a km may take an hour. Expect stops. But isn’t that such a wonder about small children? We can get so caught up in go go go that we forget to look at the beauty around us.
Number 2- Gear
My son has been snowshoeing in his own snowshoes since he was barely 3. We have done that intentionally because it holds his interest longer, he gets the benefits of exercise in the great outdoors and he learns new skills. A cheap pair is totally fine (As shown above with my beautiful sister), I think we paid $40 for our son’s light up snowshoes, plus because of the size of snowshoes they can wear them for a number of years before needing new. Until our kids are fairly confident walkers, either my husband or I carry our littles in hiking backpacks. I’ve tried the softer wraps or ergo baby style carriers but find that my back lasts better and my kids last better in a more supportive carrier. Which leads me to my snowshoes. My snowshoes I got last year are weight rated so I can carry a child or snowshoe super pregnant (yup still do at 30 weeks). Take that into consideration when choosing your own shoes.
Number 3- Routes
We frequent a beautiful location fairly close to us called Nickel Plate and particularly their Snowflake trail. Its beautiful, you can walk right across a lake and its diverse. Not only that but its easy. Kind of going back to my first point, remember that you aren’t travelling with a professional here but likely someone who realistically learned to walk like a year ago. So don’t choose tricky hills or super deep snow which normally, I love but my kids aren’t quite ready. Try learning along side of your child to enjoy the simple things and slow down life.
Number 4- Watch for Signs Of Tiredness
This kind of goes back to point one of lowering your expectations. Watch your kiddos for them getting tired. They may slow down. Mine get quiet. They start to lose focus on what they are doing or once my son sat down in the snow and flat out refused to move. They have small legs and they get tired. You know best the signs of your own child but encourage you to listen and pay attention to how they are doing. If they are tired, then stop. Take a break or head back if needed.
Number 5- Weather
This point should be more common sense that it was for me. When we first started snowshoeing, I figured the kids would deal with whatever weather we went in. I don’t know why I thought this because this is not so. Even with so many layers, serious windchill can absolutely kill the most enjoyable snowshoeing. Wherever you are going, look at the temp, the wind chill and speed and the time of day you are planning to go. My kids were fine up to about -10 c (14 F) with no windchill but we had to cut trips much shorter after that and if there is cool a wind, its likely a no go. Take the temp into consideration which leads me to point 6.
Number 6- Dress for it
This was a work in progress…finding the right winter clothing for snowshoeing for a toddler. I guess most companies don’t go too serious with their kid’s winter clothing for things like this. Or maybe its just that I shop really frugally so it was harder to find quality. In the end of finding the right stuff, I found great ski jackets and snow pants at Value Village along with good Sorel boots and toques. Mittens were a whole other ballpark. I think I paid more for his mittens then the whole rest of his outfit! But they were worth it. Make sure that your snowsuit is easy to get into and out for fast bathroom breaks. My baby was also another story. Good friends of ours invested in a super lightweight snowsuit onesie that is waterproof from North Face. Its lightweight enough for him to fit into the back pack or if he wants to ride in the sled, its waterproof enough for that. Take extra warm clothes along and dress the kids in layers. Personally, I wear quite lightweight clothes for winter and am usually cold at first but once I get going, I am thankful. Look at the weather and make sure they are warm enough or you really won’t get far.
Point 7- Snacks and Water
Again you’d think this was a Duh! point but I truly had forgotten how fast children’s metabolic rates are but then you add factors such as cold and exercise for longer periods and you get hungry kids fast! For my toddler, I bring along super yummy granola type bars that are a good blend of protein, fibre and nutrients that keep him going. I also bring homemade hot chocolate for after. Hot chocolate is great motivator to get back to the van post trip. My baby gets bord on our trips as well as hungry. I make ahead these cereal necklaces that also have round teething cookies which he can wear and munch. They keep him both busy and full. Win, win. Also make sure you take water. Winter can be a very dry time and cold can feel like its sucking the moisture out of you. Water should always be a priority.
Point 8- Timing
My kids are on a schedule. I know this is not the way every one runs life but my children really do schedules well and don’t manage well without them. I recommend schedules. I was not always this way but having kids changes you. I think I’m one of the most ridiculously scheduled and organized mom of toddlers ever. I write my menu plans A YEAR in advance (according to my research with shopping for our usual products and what goes on sale etc. but another blog for another day) Having said that, my kids have two particular times in their current schedule that they are the most energetic and have the best focus and attitudes. These times are right after breakfast and right after their afternoon nap. This was not always so. We used to plan so our kids would sleep on the trip as opposed to before. Plan your trips around then your child is the most agreeable. Not hungry or tired or you may not get far.
Number 8- Plan Plan Plan Ahead
I have mentioned in almost every since point here so I thought I’d make it a point. PLAN your trips. Know where you are going and tell someone if you end up being like us and snowshoeing in the backwoods. Make sure you have your gear and snacks and everything along that you might need (dont forget normal things like diapers!) and that you know what the weather will be etc before you go. When I was in college I could just fly out the door on a random trip but children take time and preparation for the best trips. My aim is make our trips peaceful and fun. I’m so much more at peace when I am prepared and I’m sure you will find that too.
Number 9- Go with Others
We often snowshoe with both my husband and I as well as my dad, sister and mom or some combination of the above. Trying to wrestle kids into snowsuits, snowshoes and backpacks is tough then you have to get into your gear as well. To keep the trip as pleasant and peaceful as possible decide ahead who is doing what and when. Since it isn’t safe for children to travel in their snowsuits in their carseats, we dress our children once we get to our destination and its challenging in a van. Zachary usually takes one kid, I take the other or I dress them and he does snowshoes. It’s been very difficult to do up my snowshoes and my sons lately as I am rounding 30 weeks and I mean rounding! Plan plan plan for peace on the trip.
Number 10- If they didn’t like this trip…go again another day
My kiddos have not enjoyed every single trip that we have been on. There have been trips where we enjoyed over 5 kms of snowshoeing (yes, our little guy too) and trips where we have made it a van lengths away before turning around. Sometimes they love it. Sometimes its just not there. Being flexible and open to this will make snowshoeing so much more peaceful without arguing or giving up on the whole idea. Sometimes my kids do better in a sled then the backpack. What I am mostly getting at here is just to be flexible with your kids and they will learn to love it. Force it too much because you like it will not help their love of it.
So there is my top tips of snowshoeing with small kids. I hope you have so much fun and that your kids learn to love the outdoors. It’s very rewarding for all of us. Some of our best memories are out in the snow. Embrace winter don’t just wait it out!