With plenty of personal experience exploring NT with her young family, Jessica Toll has advice aplenty to share on the topic of adventuring with young kids.
The first five years in a child’s life are crucial for their development and acts as a foundation for the rest of their life. As a mother of two (three-year-old and eight-month-old) and an early childhood educator, this is an area close to my heart.
Don’t wait until your children are old enough to decide they would prefer to stay home. Get your children out with you exploring now, learning and enjoying the wild outdoor adventures with you; one day they will thank you for it.
The outdoor environment is a perfect learning environment for little ones. Just being outside children are able to test their skills and perfect them by climbing, balancing, running and leaping. Intellectually, children have a chance to discover and uncover how the world revolves around them, from the rising and setting of the sun each day, the moon and its phases, to learning about lizards, birds, insects and much more.
Getting out in the wild allows little ones to personally connect with nature and will foster a love and understanding for it like none that can be taught within four walls.
It is all well and good to exclaim how brilliant the wild is for children, but actually getting them out there can often seem like the step that is just a little too high, a little too dangerous. Too often we are surrounded by people who are only too eager to tell us how irresponsible, selfish and difficult it would be to take babies or children on amazing adventures with us.
I am here to tell you… it’s not irresponsible, it’s not selfish and its not too difficult! Here are the not so tricky secrets I have unveiled along the way, adventuring with my own children:
- Children and babies feel vibes, they can sense a fake miles away. Get excited about your adventure and the outside world and share it with your child. The energy you give off will be contagious so make sure it is all positive.
- Little ones are extra sensitive to the elements. More so than you, they need quality clothing and equipment. Small sizes can be hard to source but, once children reach a size 2, outdoor gear and apparel stores like Paddy Pallin, Mountain Designs and Wild Earth generally have what you need. Think:
- Cold – use the layering system and fabric like merino clothing, fleece and/or down.
- Sun and insects – a good hat, breathable, long-sleeved shirt and long pants for sun and insect protection. My favourites are Sunday Afternoons’ Kids Play Hat and their Grasshopper Shirt at kidsoutdoorgear.com.au.
- Wind and rain – lightweight rain jackets and pants.
- Terrain – hiking shoes (the smallest I have found are Keen), boots, runners sandals/water shoes.
Get the right equipment
- You also need the equipment that can support you and the younger ones in your adventures. A child carrier back pack will make so much more achievable and is an essential piece of kit in my eyes. Don’t skimp here, this backpack needs to be comfortable and supportive for child and adult Osprey’s new Poco AG range are what my dreams are made of with an array of features (one I can’t go past is the capacity to carry things other than your child) that make using it a pleasure.
- For older children who can walk, maybe they could carry a small hydration pack, where will they sleep at night (on what and what with)? Will you have them in a tent with you sharing the mattress or their own little Therm-a-Rest? There are so many decisions here to be made but just know each choice will have its strengths and weaknesses and every person will have their own setup and equipment that works best for them. Keep in mind that if you are going to be carrying everything, lightweight and versatile equipment must be a priority.
- Get the children involved in every step of the process; from picking where and when to go, shopping for the snacks for the trial, to packing everything back away. You can even involve babies by simply letting them know what the plan is and asking what they think of it. You might be lucky enough to get a squeal or giggle of excitement from them. Their involvement will not only give them ownership, but will build anticipation while teaching them how to plan for themselves one day.
Plan for an emergency
- You need to be in a situation where, if something unplanned arises, you are prepared. It is essential you carry emergency communication devices (such as satellite phone, PLB, GPS tracker) if there is even a chance you will be out of mobile reception. Think whistles, matches, torch, water, food, first aid and snakebite kit and appropriate clothing for the climate. If things do go bad, you need to be able to stay calm and relaxed, know things will be OK and make smart decisions.
- Surround yourself with amazing people who believe in you and your family’s goals. Let’s be real, there will be times when you feel like regretting decisions you have made… but don’t! You need to have the people available to you who will remind you of the reasons you are doing things and how great it truly is.
- We have created a podcast called Adventurer Lifestyle to enable people to live out their very own version of an adventurer’s life, which might just be the motivation and support you need to launch into your next adventure with your tribe.
Dirt is not evil
- Know that it is OK if your children miss a bath for a day or even a few days in a row. I would suggest having ample wet wipes, if needed, “wet wipe baths” are awesome and wipes are just a handy thing to have when you don’t have water to spare.
Babies and children are capable, adaptable people; often more so than we give them credit for. Many people seem to like to use children as an excuse for the things they are not doing. Sure, children and infants can make things a little more tricky, but for all the effort you put in for them, they will return it in ways you can never imagine.
Original post on Wild Magazine.