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Snowshoeing With The Kids
Wondering how to make a snowshoeing outing with the kids fun for everyone? Here's a primer on going snowshoeing with the kids.
On a winter trail outing near my home, I ran into a neighbor and her daughter on snowshoes, and it was not going well for them. The kid was whining and uncomfortable and she headed back home (nearby) by herself. Mom kept going and I went along with her for a while and chatted about how to help her daughter have a good time snowshoeing on a cold winter day.
You can get the kids snowshoes that are used or new but it's best to get equipment that is appropriate for their size. Colorful snowshoes for kids 4-8 years old are fun, but most importantly get ones that are secure and easy to put on. Most companies have snowshoes for kids but as they get older, they'll need a snowshoe that is intended for lighter people and has regular snowshoe and binding characteristics.
Light layers of clothing are comfortable and you can add or remove clothing as needed. A lightweight synthetic base layer of long underwear helps to keep you dry and transport perspiration away. A middle layer provides insulation such as a shirt or sweater and then a jacket shell on the outer layer works great. Don't forget a headband or light hat and a pair of gloves. Alpine ski gloves may be too warm for snowshoeing unless it is very cold outside (or you have poor circulation issues).
The goal is for the kids to recognize when it is too cold or too hot and to encourage them to change to feel comfortable with the temperature. They can wear a backpack to stash or pull out the extra clothes, and feel self-sufficient.
Have Fun on Snowshoes
The first few outings should be short and easy so that the kids don't feel that snowshoeing is "too much work." Maybe they can use a camera or cell phone. Plan ahead and discuss what to look for - perhaps there are different kinds of scenic views, trees, animals, tracks, and each other. You can not stop too many times to take photos. Pose for them, take selfies, get some photos of them without you, send them out on social media, etc. You're making and saving memories.
Set up a scavenger hunt on the way out on the trail (hang or hide treats) and use the destination as a goal to play the game. On the way back, the kids can look for and accumulate the hidden treasures (kids love candy). "Snowshoe Biathlon" incorporates other backyard games such as ring toss or ball toss into a container. Set up a course and stations along the trails.
A destination such as waterfalls or a hilltop gives the kids something to look forward to, even in the planning of the outing. Be aware whether the child is over his or her head - the trail may be too steep, too long, or you are not getting to the destination soon enough.
If you want to avoid all of this decision-making, go to a cross country ski area that can accommodate kids on snowshoes like Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, New Hampshire. They have a scavenger hunt called "Trail Tracker," a big hit for kids to track down signs of cartoon animals out on the trails, stamp a card and get a treat upon return to the lodge.
Plenty of snacks and drinks are a must for a successful outing. If you are going out more than a half hour pack enough water or drinks. The kids get thirsty fast and they may like to play the I'm thirsty" card when they want a break. Granola bars, sandwiches, energy drinks, fresh fruit and crackers can provide ample energy boosts, but also consider some snacks that you know they enjoy like chocolate or candy bars.
A Memorable Time with the Kids
Try to teach them to have fun with snowshoeing. Take snack breaks or play I-spy in the middle of the woods to keep them interested in continuing to walk. Go for a snowshoe adventure rather than just a snowshoe hike. Take the opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature and exercise, while at the same time get some bonding time with your family; you'll be glad you did.