Editor’s note: This article first published on December 10, 2015.
I’m that parent. You know, the one who likes to go on adventures. My child-free days would find me paddling, hiking, and camping out on the weekends. Four years ago, when I became pregnant with my first child, I wondered if all those days were behind me. How could I take my child with me on these adventures? This was a genuine concern, and a mounting obstacle as my son’s birthday drew near.
I’m on the other side now, with two children aged 2- and 4-years-old. I want to tell you this simply and clearly: absolutely you can do everything you did pre-kids with kids. There is a little shifting that has to occur to make this happen. For me it was all in the mindset. You can literally do anything you put your mind to – adventuring with kids included!
Here are six simple ways to help you shift from new parents into the active parents that you want to be:
- Gear up. Good thing most outdoor people are also gear-hogs. With little people, there’s a fascinating new world of baby gear that is just going to open up for you. Consider what you need to take baby with you on your adventures. This is prime gear to add to your baby registry. Not sure? Visit your local family-friendly outdoor store, like MEC, and they can help. Key pieces for us were a 3-wheeled jogging stroller with mountain-bike tires for forest terrain, and a soft-shelled carrier that could be worn three different ways. Since then we’ve invested in lifejackets, skis, sleds, rain gear, and more – thankfully these outdoor gear pieces also make great birthday and Christmas presents.
- Take your child with you. For the first few months your child is largely a spectator in any outdoor adventure you have. It may seem silly to take them with you, but it’s not. You’re starting them on building their bond with the outdoor world as a safe place to go. For the parent, it’s important to get used to adventuring with a child in tow. Not to be understated, the joy of discovering the outdoor world again with your child will open your eyes to wonder in ways you can’t even imagine.
- Reduce your risk or intensity. If you were previously a trail-runner, consider taking your child for a walk or quick jog through local trails. If you like cycling, hook up a bike trailer and take them with you. The key here is choosing situations that aren’t as risky nor as strenuous to start. I tried a bike trailer when my kids were babies, however, the mountain hills in the trails defeated me. I wasn’t strong enough to pedal myself and the extra weight of the bike trailer. My next jaunt involved trying it out on a flatter trail series and I was fine.
- Be prepared. Taking kids with you involves being ready with extra diapers, sippy cups, and additional sets of clothing. Pack yourself an extra adventure bag that has all this stuff ready to go, and replenish often. It will save your sanity in the long run. Other must-haves for us included: a special toy, a favourite treat, an extra set of clothes, and additional hats and mittens. You never know what will save the outing and keep you and your kids going. It will at least give you a few things to try before implementing number 5.
- Consider the timing. There is likely a certain time of day where your child is more active and alert and a time where they melt down before the next nap. For your first few adventures together, consider the timing carefully and schedule it accordingly.
- Bail. There are times where things just don’t go right. With young kids in tow, it’s not time to try and press through and make it work. It’s time to bail! Always have an escape plan and know exactly how you will bail if things start going wrong.
I’m often asked how I do it. And my advice to those that weren’t so adventurous pre-baby but are looking for ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors with their babies is: start slow, choose destinations that are close to home, and build up your experiences.
You don’t have to be scaling a mountain to expose your child to nature, sometimes a walk around the block with an unpredictable newborn is adventurous enough.