Monday, April 25, 2011

Hiking with the Inexperienced (Children or Adults!)

We don't hike as much as we would like. No excuses, as we live in a perfect area for it. Only that hiking with kids takes more planning, more effort, and our schedules are pretty full already. Oh, and also because I have learned some things along the way that I am a little sticker for following.

Know Your Trail
ESPECIALLY if you are taking little ones, I don't recommend a trail you haven't already tried yourself. If this just isn't an option, RESEARCH! Ask around. Find review sites. I like to use to find out what other people thought, check out their pictures, and find out if there are things we should be aware of before choosing a path. No one wants to get out there to find out the trail is just too tough for your crew and have the day wasted in defeat. 

Read Trail head Signs, FOLLOW THE WARNINGS!
Those signs are not just decoration, or meant for other people. Bad things can happen. Beware of animals, they are not your friends. Feeding them is not a nice thing to do for them, it teaches them to look for handouts, and can mess with their digestive system. I also don't feed ducks for that reason. And, animals ALWAYS have the right of way. Make room!

Leave No Trace
There is a program that lays out recommendations and ethics for enjoying the outdoors. The ideas are simple, but rarely do I see people following them. 

  • Plan Ahead
  • Travel on Durable Surfaces (STAY ON THE TRAIL!)
  • Dispose of waste properly (PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT)
  • Leave what you find (LOOK, DON'T TOUCH)
  • Be considerate of other visitors (DON'T BE A LOUD MOUTH, SHARE THE TRAIL)
  • Respect Wildlife (I already covered this.)
Pack Well
There are some basic things every hiker needs. Water, snacks, extra clothes. Most people traveling with kids know this is not new. So, pack more. There are also specific things you should have, just in case. 

  1. Map/Compass
  2. Space Blanket 
  3. Sunscreen/Bug Spray
  4. Extra food and water
  5. Extra clothes
  6. Headlamp (outdoor)/flashlight
  7. First aid kit
  8. Fire starter/Matches
  9. Toilet Kit (shovel, TP, ziplock bag)
  10. Knife
  11. Signalling Device (Whistle, mirror, cell phone, but don't depend on cell phones!)
Many Hand Make Light Loads
When hiking with small children, never plan a hike longer than you are willing to carry your gear, your kids' gear, and possibly your kids. You are the only know who knows your children's limits. Even then, sometimes they like to just throw us through a loop and change that. Hike with friends, hike with partners, take multiple baby carriers, or choose trails that accommodate strollers or wagons if you think that might work better.

Enjoy It!
Why else would you hike, than to have a good time, enjoying each other and the world around?! Make sure everyone is rested, watered, fed, comfortable, and enjoying themselves. Be ready to cut the trip short if things aren't working. Sometimes it just isn't the day. Go into the trip knowing plans could change at any time, respect everybody's needs, and you can always try again later!

Does your family like hiking? Have you ever considered any outdoor training to learn more about keeping your family safe outdoors?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Going Screen Free (Uh, Screen Minimal?)

I was tired of waiting for spring. It was ALWAYS raining. No longer could I handle the idea of "Rainy Day=Movie Day!" with the same relish I had always had when I was woken up by shrieks for the same freakin' movie every.damn.morning. And the tantrums if I suggested something different. Then, they started refusing to go anywhere: they wanted a movie.

Here's where I clarify: We don't have cable (actually, hubby and I have been living together for almost 9 years and have only had cable for about 4 months of that.) Just recently have I turned on PBS for a change of pace with the frequent movies. We LOVE movies. I relish reading books and watching what the movie makes it to be. We have always enjoyed movies together, rarely as a babysitter. And don't get me wrong, we love being out and about. But at home time was movie time.

So, last Sunday, with rainy skies and runny noses, I kept the TV off. 

There was crying. There was screaming. It lasted an hour. Then it was over. We read books, played with playdough, cut, glued, sticker-ed, painted, colored, cooked with play food, cooked with real food, played ball, jumped on the furniture, and dressed up bears. It took 1 hour. I thought I might just die. 2 hours down, now what?
Ok, so these pictures aren't all from the same hour. But, you get the idea.

Well, fine then, I said. And I picked up my own book. I read. I drank coffee. (Did I mention I did NOT get on the computer? That hardly seemed fair, for me to have a screen and not them. I kept up with that too, waiting until night, and usually less time online at that!) My boys were bored. Good. Find something to do. They say boredom is good for kids. Want to guess what a 20mo thinks is a good activity when bored? Breastfeeding. All the time. But that is a different story.

We survived though. 9 days of no screen time during the day, and evenings only for a family movie night.

So, what have we done to fill our time?

We have a GREAT library system. So many books, and so much more. We checked out three times our normal amount of children's books. I checked out books for myself. Audio Books, music cds, and these great "Learning Kits." We have already had wooden blocks and rhythm instruments. We are waiting on the parachute, dinosaurs, and more. Really get to know what your library has to offer. They have events too, but so far they haven't been right for us.

Coffee filters are our friends. During the winter we used them to create great looking snowflakes. We expanded on the idea. We cut the filters to flower and butterfly shapes, colored them with markers, and sprayed them with water. Amazingly beautiful, added some pipe cleaners, strung them on some thread, and we have a spring garden above our heads.

Seriously, did you know kids LIKE to do laundry? At least little kids. They also like to sweep, scrub, and toss things in a bucket. Sure, it takes twice as long, but really, what else do you have to do? Wouldn't it be better to let them do it now when they like it, and not continue seeing you begrudgingly doing each action as a chore? I usually avoid doing them, now I can do them with help! We really spent about an hour scrubbing every inch of their little table (yeah, it needed it) with all 3 of us with rags and a spray bottle of vinegar.

Change the Scenery
We played on the porch. We played at Grandma's house. We took baths in the middle of the day. We rode the bus all the way to Seattle for free ice cream (and were lucky it stayed nice outside!)

His first ice cream cone! Though, I had to take it away before he ate the cone.

Go Outside
Sure, it was cloudy and icky. But, we live in Washington. When the rain stops, run outside!

So, the tantrums have dissolved to infrequent requests. It almost always works to suggest we read instead, and they have been requesting books more frequently than ever.  I have a few more crafts up my sleeves, some sticker books, visits with friends, and we are starting to meet with our TJEd learning group. The weather seems to be FINALLY deciding winter is coming to a close (yes, I know spring is here on the calendar, but there was SNOW last week.) and we are so excited to start getting outside more!

How often does your family watch TV? How do you fill your days in "meaningful" ways? How do you survive winter, sickness, and boredom?