Being in the great outdoors is beneficial for all of us. Being in touch with nature can be refreshing for our bodies and souls. Many new parents may take a step back, afraid to enjoy their usual outdoor adventures with baby. But sharing this enthusiasm for the outdoors is gives them a taste of nature that maybe they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives.
Traditional outdoor adventures don’t have to wait until your baby is old enough to walk and talk on their own! The things you loved before like hiking, camping, and canoeing, can still be fun and safe with a baby or toddler in tow.
Go out early
Actually starting as young as possible is a good idea as small children absorb external, especially parental, influences. The younger they are and more frequent you take them into nature, the more they will feel comfortable and desire to go.
Being in nature is a learning experience too. It teaches children a variety of sights and sounds, they don’t experience at home. New colors, different trees and rocks means new words and new understanding of the world around them.
As they start moving on their own, being outside will also help them get to know their bodies like learning better balance.
If you are an experienced outdoors person, with your know how and a little research and planning you can go out into your wild outdoor adventures with baby with some adapting. For instance, whereas you have been fine if a rain shower snuck up on you while hiking in the past, now you need to check the weather. And make contingency plans in case the weather doesn’t do as expected.
Since you’ll be carrying your baby you’ll need to account for their weight and maybe plan shorter trips until you get used to it. Or if you are canoeing with a toddler, you’ll need to adapt to an extra body and gear in the canoe.
You’ll also have to account for your child’s temperament. Maybe you love four-day camping trips but baby will only put up with two days before he decides he’s done and gets fussy. Pick activities the whole family can enjoy and work your way up if you prefer to do more.
Here are some more specific tips for having a good time this summer in your outdoor adventures with baby.
1. When you’re hiking, it’s vital to keep the diaper bag even better stocked than usual. It’s one thing to run out of diapers when you’re already at a grocery store or a friend’s house; it’s another thing to run out of diapers when you’re a full mile away from your car – and an even longer drive back home.
2. Choose a comfortable baby carrier. A crying baby or an aching back can ruin the whole event. If your baby is young enough, the repetitive motion of being worn during a hike might put them to sleep. Going close to a regularly scheduled naptime might help keep their sleep schedule on track – but you know your baby best.
3. Check that weather before you go. Even if you’re okay hiking in the rain, a little one won’t be. Keep your eye on the forecast for the days leading up to your hike and while you’re out on the trails. The weather can change on a dime, and you don’t want to get caught away from your car during a sudden downpour.
4. For toddlers, encourage them to stay hydrated with a fun water bottle of their favorite character. Maybe having a brand new bottle just for the trip can make them excited even if they’re not totally sure about the idea.
5. Choose easy trails at first. If you’re carrying a little one, you’ll need to get used to the added weight during hikes; if your toddler is walking (probably part of) the way on their own, they’ll need a trail that won’t do more harm than good.
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1. Choose a tent that’s the right size, even if it means upgrading a recently purchased one. You’ll need room for yourself, your partner, and your child’s gear. If you’re bringing along a portable crib, you’ll have to keep that in mind when you’re looking at the square footage of a tent.
2. Choose a camping location that gives you easy access to clean, fresh water, especially if your baby is drinking from a bottle. If your baby is a little older, or if you have a toddler, bring foods you know they’ll enjoy. Don’t introduce new foods this weekend; things are already different enough. Bring what you already know baby/toddler loves.
3. Bring little layers to keep them warm or cool, depending on how the weather turns.
4. Bug repellent and sunscreen aren’t recommended for babies under the age of six months, so it’s essential to rely on other methods to keep them safe from the sun and insects. Setting up your tent in a shady spot and bringing along mosquito nets are good places to start to keep them safe and comfortable.
5. Especially if this is your first time camping with a young child, choose a location that’s close to home, so your trip there and back isn’t an added layer of stress. Even a site at the campground that’s near the parking lot can help (and so can a nearby bathroom).
6. Don’t forget the first aid kit with age-appropriate medications! If you have a regular kit you used to take with you everywhere, it’s time to upgrade it to include the medicines you might need to help an infant or a toddler feel better if an accident does happen.
1. Invest in good age- and size-appropriate personal flotation devices for the little ones. Even if you don’t intend for them to get wet, it’s important to prepare for accidents just in case.
2. Allow yourself more time than it used to take. Although this is true with almost everything, it’s extra important here. Getting from A to B with a little one in tow isn’t as simple as it used to be, so give yourself more time than you think you need to avoid getting stressed and anxious.
3. Put essentials in an easy-to-reach spot that’s separate from most of your supplies. Canoes are small and they’re even smaller with a baby. Don’t waste time struggling to get into drybags when the baby needs something right now.
4. Don’t forget the playthings. You might enjoy spending hours out on the water without any other form of entertainment, but a baby or a toddler won’t be as easily soothed. Packing safe toys that they won’t lose over the edge of the canoe can save your trip – and a headache.
5. Don’t forget the sun protection! Young babies shouldn’t wear sunscreen, so it’s important to plan ahead to provide shade for the little ones. This will keep them from overheating and from burning.
No matter what activity you choose for your outdoor adventure with baby, remember that it’s okay to turn back around and go home if things aren’t working out. Sometimes your little one is just in a bad mood; sometimes accidents happen. It’s always better to try that hike or camping weekend again when everyone’s feeling their best.
And when things go well, you and your children can benefit greatly while instilling wonderful outdoor habits from an early age. Thus you’ll be budding an adventurous outlook and independence that can have a lasting effect on their lives.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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