Sharing the Outdoors with Kids
by Amy Quick
This September, my little family got the chance to check a couple outdoor rec trips off our bucket list: backpacking in the Beartooth Mountains, and rafting/fishing on sections A, B and C of the Green River below Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. We’re still smiling from the shared sunshine and adventures.
My husband, Andy, and I have made recreating on public lands – biking, paddling, hiking, camping, skiing – a priority and since our daughter Charlotte was born, we continue to make concerted efforts to keep outdoor recreation a focal point of our family. Recreating with kids, however, takes on new challenges and requires a bit more planning but the rewards are absolutely amazing!
Over the past seven years with Charlotte, we’ve learned a few lessons about enjoying the outdoors with kiddos. Granted we’re still learning (or relearning) lessons every time we head outdoors together but there are a few common threads that seem to make our time out more enjoyable and less complicated.
Being in the outdoors, in wilderness areas and on public lands is an opportunity to unplug from the fast pace and hubbub of daily life. Take advantage of it and reconnect to one another. We’re not perfect and sometimes find ourselves frustrated with the slow-go travel in the backcountry with our daughter in tow or think we might lose it if she asks “how much longer?” yet one more time. But when we remember to be patient and pace ourselves based on HER speed we are presented the best gifts – the world through a child’s eyes. It’s amazing what Charlotte will notice along a trail or the comments she’ll make as we cruise down a river. I often wish I had a pen and paper to memorialize her words and capture a moment in time forever. These times slip by so quickly and slowing down to cherish them is a gift we can’t let slip by.
It’s also important to remember to take stock of everyone’s needs. Now that Charlotte is older, she can usually tell us if she’s hungry or thirsty or tired, but it certainly wasn’t always the case. She still gets distracted and forgets to drink or eat sometimes as we all do. A trip is more enjoyable when she’s not “hangry” or dehydrated so remembering to keep her needs at the forefront is critical.
Bring Snacks We believe wholeheartedly in bribery and it is totally acceptable, in our book, to bring treats (chosen by Charlotte, of course) to keep her moving when the miles seem long or the day skiing is getting cold. Keeping candy or our favorite, Honey Stingers, in a pocket to encourage her to go that extra mile can be a trip saver. And who cares about the extra calories, we all need them at this point.
You’ll thank us later
Sometimes “Forced Family Fun” is OK We often joke that when our daughter goes to therapy as an adult, her major complaint will be, “My parents forced me to (insert outdoor activity here: bike, hike, ski, kayak, raft, etc.) as a child.” WAH WAH WAH! While it’s a funny family joke, we do sometimes worry that we are spoiling the outdoors for Charlotte by “forcing” her to enjoy our hobbies. This fall’s trips, however, proved that concern to be false. Charlotte beamed with joy and excitement on both outings and was an eager participant. Listening to her cackle with delight as we hit a rapid or scurry over rocks and logs was a true testament to our determination to instill a love of the outdoors in her. Our enthusiasm is contagious; she has the outdoor bug, too, and truly loves exploring out there.
We have to remember, though, that Type II fun is hard for kids. As parents seeking new adventures and challenges, it can be hard to balance our need for adrenaline and that “big push” with our daughter’s youth and limits. Finding the right balance is key and requires constant vigilance on our part.
The extra weight is worth it and it’s a good opportunity to teach responsibility. Charlotte is always in charge of her toys and toting them wherever we go. Plus, images of her snuggling in a sleeping bag with her stuffed Triceratops, Louie, or taking good care of her baby doll are priceless reminders of her childhood.
While family-focused trips are sometimes some of the best moments, friends are always welcome and we love sharing adventures with them. It helps take the pressure off entertaining our child when she has playmates along and it’s amazing how they push each other. We are always amazed at how Charlotte pushes herself over normal hurdles with a friend along plus the whining is usually greatly diminished. All great reasons to invite pals along your path.
Before Charlotte was born, I struggled to imagine what life would be like with a child and how we could possibly continue to enjoy all the activities we loved pre-baby. Thankfully, we have been able to include her in almost all of our adventures – there’s still plenty of merit in getting away for adult-only trips, too! – and it’s brought a new depth and enjoyment to what we love to do. We look forward to the day Charlotte can row the raft or guide us down the trail, and we will cherish each shared outdoor moment until she is off leading her own adventures without us.
Charlotte’s Outdoor Fun Top 10
- Waking up to pancakes for breakfast
- Campfires and s’mores
- Sharing stories
- Sleeping in a tent
- Riding her mountain bike, the “Red Streak”
- Skiing powder at Sleeping Giant Ski Area
- Busting through whitewater
- Climbing on rocks and making sand castles
- Playing with her pup, Pika
- Sharing the fun with friends
Amy was drawn to Wyoming 20 years ago because of the multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities. Currently, she is the Northwest Regional Director for the Wyoming Business Council where she works with communities in the Big Horn Basin on a variety of community and economic development issues, including the outdoor recreation economy. She and her husband also own a paddlesports business, Gradient Mountain Sports, in Cody, and are constantly looking forward to the next time they can play outside with their daughter, Charlotte.