“Don’t just tell your kids to be active and get outside and play. Lead by example.”
One of the great joys of our move to Switzerland has been the availability and proximity to the great outdoors. I grew up in northwestern Ontario and despite some its flaws, the endless ability to just get outside and DO stuff was not one of them! Lakes, forests, mountains, snow, sun…we had it all. I felt strongly like this was missing from my kids’ lives in Paris and by moving here, we have all enjoyed our newfound freedom to explore the world outside.
I have previously written about hiking and skiing with kids in tow and I would like to expand up on that with a post about snowshoeing with kids. While this isn’t a very technically difficult sport to master, there are some considerations to make when taking children out with you. Hopefully you and your juniors will love this activity as much as we do!
Tips for Snowshoeing with Kids:
Disclaimer: these tips are merely suggestions and things that worked for us or other families I’ve spoken with and might not be right for your family.
- Start Gently and Slowly. Snowshoeing may not seem like a lot work but in no time your heart will be pumping and your muscles will be working hard to carry your body over the snow. Try to start with a flat trail that doesn’t challenge your youngsters too much. The idea is to make it fun which, in turn, generally means they will be more likely to want to do it again and again. The first few treks out, my kids also enjoyed throwing themselves into snowbanks and playing. I joined them. Being together outside isn’t about my exercise and heart rate, it is about teaching my kids to love being active and having fun together.
- Buy Proper Gear. While I have seen several super cheap, plastic snowshoes available for youngsters, I have a hard time believing these will do the job. My kids wear very lightweight, kid-sized snowshoes called First Tracks by Lucky Bums. We have hit all kinds of terrain this season and they have done the job! Also, they come in pretty cool colours!
- Skip the Poles. I said this with skiing and I will say this again now. Unless your children have extensive practice using poles for hiking and/or another sport like alpine or cross-country skiing, poles can just get in the way to start. They are a GREAT way to add additional balance but in my experience, kids actually enjoy falling in the snow and the poles can hurt when they land on them. If your child is really keen on using poles or is a bit older, then go for it, but for the very little ones, skip them to start.
- Dress Appropriately. This should be a no-brainer but in case it isn’t, I will stress this point here. Kids love snow. Kids love falling, playing and rolling in snow. Dress them warmly in waterproof gear. Snow suits are best but older kids can get away with wearing gaiters if they are more interested in actually snowshoeing than snow-playing 😉 Gloves, hats, warm boots, sunscreen and even sunglasses if is sunny. Don’t forget the snow reflects UV rays so protecting the eyes and skin are crucial.
- Pack Snacks and Water. A thirsty and hungry child can quickly shift a fun activity to a stress fest for mamas and papas. Be wise. Carry a backpack with healthy snacks and water for all of you.
- Listen to Them. This goes back to point one where I strongly believe if you start slowly and progress gently, you will be a snowshoeing family in no time. However, kids get tired easily and this doesn’t have to be a negative thing. If they are cold, tired or just simply over it, then head back to the car/home. Forcing kids to do anything will result in a meltdown and will ruin the experience. Some kids have more endurance than others so don’t push your kids to keep up with anyone else other than themselves. Learning to snowshoe is a gift. You will be teaching your kids to exercise without it seeming like a big deal. Even kids that loathe sports are keen to try snowshoeing so bank on their interest, keep it fun and at THEIR level.
- Have fun. Enough said 😉
Photo credit: Jennifer Hart