Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

Hiking with Kids

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

img_7455One of our family’s favorite activities is hiking. When we decided where to locate pre-kids, we decided on Denver since there are so many places to hike in Colorado.  In the summer of 2012, we planned one last backpacking trip before we started to try to have kids.  We saw a family hiking up the trail in the opposite direction on our last day.  Trailing far behind the rest of the family was the miserable looking father, carrying a child, plus what looked like gear and water for the others.  I jokingly said to my husband, “That’s going to be you soon!” once they had passed. We had a good laugh, but we had a lot to learn about hiking with kids. The following tips to make certain no one looks as miserable as that poor father did.

  1. Research and try on a kid carrier before purchasing one. Be prepared to spend some money.  Your hips, shoulders, rest of your body will thank you. While our kids were still little, I carried them using my soft-structured carrier. Some people still use their woven wraps to carry big kids. When they were about 10 months, though, we purchased hiking carriers. Just like a good hiking backpack, make sure you find one that will allow you to adjust the load between your hips and shoulders.

  2. Make sure your kids stay hydrated. Even living in Denver, when we go up to the mountains, the elevation affects us. If we’re feeling the elevation, the kids are too. We encourage Lily to drink water often. To prepare Juniper for the hike, I would nurse her in the car before starting, on any breaks we took, and once we were finished hiking. I didn’t use a nursing cover with my girls, so I made sure to wear a nursing tank under my hiking shirt. Now that Juniper is a year old, we bring her water too. We also bring an extra liter of water on top of what we normally bring to ensure the whole family is properly hydrated. On longer hikes, as an extra precaution, we bring our water pump.  (We split the load.)

  3. Minimize travel time. Gone are the days of waking up at 5:30, driving the two hours to Rocky Mountain National Park, hiking, then driving the two hours back home. We have found many hikes closer to home, within forty-five minutes of our house. Although the views are slightly less spectacular, everyone is much happier with the decreased travel time.

  4. Related to #3, plan your hike length appropriately. Even with frequent breaks and allowing Lily to hike on her own, our kids have about an hour and a half tolerance for hiking. Lily no longer naps, but when she did, we would try to plan to hike during naps so we could go on longer hikes. Be prepared to move slowly if you have a little one hiking on their own. Lily loves finding pine cones, sticks, rocks, and other treasures.  All the exploring greatly decreases the pace we move at.

  5. Expand your first-aid kit. When it was just the two of us, a first aid kit that only included limited bandaids, antibiotic cream, an ace bandage, and ibuprofen was sufficient. We’ve added Children’s Benadryl, extra sunscreen, emergency rain ponchos, additional bandaids, alcohol wipes, and tweezers. In addition to our expanded first aid kit, we also make sure we have a change of clothes for the girls and diapers for the baby.

Although hiking with kids is a little different that hiking pre-kids, it can be just as much fun (if not more).  Now it is not just a hobby that my husband and I share, it a favorite activity of the whole family.

Becky Nagel is a stay at home mom to two girls, a three year old and a one year old, in Denver, CO who enjoys cooking for her family, running, and hiking.

Sun Protection for Babies

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Messy outdoor funI’m a redhead, which has its benefits but also comes with some liabilities. Sun sensitivity tops that list for me. Between my super sensitive skin and my husband’s prior skin cancer diagnosis, sun protection is always a consideration for our family, and was definitely something I thought about after I had a baby.

My first plan was to slather every square inch of my baby’s exposed skin with sunscreen whenever I was going to be outdoors. I was wrong; turns out sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies under six months old. Instead, my pediatrician said to avoid direct sun and keep my son covered in breathable clothing and a big hat.

I’ve realized since moving to the sub-tropics that this advice is really good for everyone over 6 months as well. Densely woven fabrics are more effective than any sunscreen, and they won’t sweat off or run into eyes like sunblock can. I’ve also found that my kids did a lot better wearing a hat and sunglasses regularly when I began using them as infants. They don’t argue over wearing a rash guard, hat, and sunglasses at the beach now because that’s what they’ve done since they were tiny.

When you’re ready to venture out with your baby this summer, whether to the park or the beach, here’s a checklist of things you will want to keep your child safe in the sun.

  • Densely woven, loose fitting clothing. For babies under six months, long sleeves and pants or a lightweight blanket to cover sensitive skin is a must. Rash guards can be purchased relatively inexpensively and are perfect for water play. Not only do they come with built-in UPF, they also reduce the amount of (squirmy) skin you have to apply sunscreen to.
  • A floppy hat, and if your child will tolerate them, sunglasses.
  • For babies six months and older, sunscreen for all exposed skin. Even waterproof varieties require reapplication after swimming, so don’t forget to reapply!
  • Shade. A portable shade tent is terrific if you are going to be someplace that doesn’t have shade already. If your child is in a stroller, use the sun shade and watch for any exposed skin (little thighs can get more sun than you intend if they’re wearing shorts). If you’re babywearing, watch for exposed ankles if their pants ride up being in the carrier.
  • Extra water. UV exposure isn’t the only hot-weather concern for babies. Infants can overheat easily and are prone to heat rash, especially chubbier babies. Monitor your child closely for signs of dehydration and if they’re prone to heat rash, you can try putting a little non-talc powder on their skin before dressing them.

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two little boys, ages 3 and 6. She’s currently enjoying the expat life in Japan.


Active Outdoors with a Newborn

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was bound and determined to not let the baby change our lifestyle. My husband and I loved the outdoors—this was going to be totally easy to integrate into our new lives as a family of three, right?

For the most part, the answer was yes. We found being flexible was our greatest asset–while she is the smallest member of your family, your child will definitely have the last word in any outings you plan or attempt. Beyond that, though, being prepared to get back outside played a major part in us enjoying the outdoors as a family.

Active Outdoors with a NewbornThe time of year your new baby is born has a real impact on what you can do right away. Babies are sensitive to temperature extremes. My oldest was born in January in Alaska, so lots of layers and quality cold-weather gear were key to being able to get out. At the far end of the spectrum, a friend’s youngest was born in the sub-tropics in July; she was dealing with keeping him out of direct sun and trying to avoid heat rash just going on short walks in the first months after he was born.

Having the right gear can make or break your trips outdoors. Don’t get me wrong–I totally don’t advocate buying out your local sporting goods store outfitting your new baby. A few things can mean the difference between getting outside and being stuck in your house though.

Here’s my list of must haves if you want your baby to start enjoying the outdoors with you:

  • A comfortable, safe baby carrier. Extra bonus points if it has a nap/sun hood on it.
  • A Versatile Stroller. If you plan on doing anything more than walking, you need a stroller. I ended up trying out several (thanks, Craigslist!) and my favorite for our family’s needs is the Chariot. Why? You can jog, ski, and bike with just one stroller and it has both a rain and bug net fly (which also keeps your child’s toys and/or sippy cups INSIDE the stroller). The price is steep, but buying used or waiting for a good REI sale is a good way to save money. If you think you might ever have more than one child, buy the double right away. If you have no need for a bike or ski trailer, there are lots of other quality options out there, too (BOB, City Mini, etc).
  • Layers! Just like you would for yourself, dress your baby in layers. For cold weather, there are lots of fancy baby long johns out there, but I always started with a pair of my kid’s pajamas. Next I would add a fleece bunting or snowsuit, preferably with fold over mittens (my kids hated mittens). These are a great thing to look for second-hand or from discount shops like Old Navy, since they typically are barely used before being grown out of. A hat tops off the ensemble. If they’re in the stroller, I put a blanket on top. Some people will toss a hand warmer into the stroller as well (out of arms reach).
  • Sun Protection. For hot weather, sun protection and breathable layers are key. I love, love, love muslin blankets for both. They also double as carseat sun covers and nursing covers. If your baby is under six months old (sunscreen is generally not recommended for children that young), sun protection is a major concern. Keeping a light blanket over their stroller or car seat, using hats when they are in your carrier, and generally avoiding peak sun hours are all good tools. Heat rash can also be a concern. Here in the subtropics where I live now, all of those adorable rolls on your new baby can be troublesome; if your baby has issues, you can try dusting on a non-talc powder before heading out.

Probably the single most important thing you need to get back outside or moving after a baby is an open mind. I had visions of days-long backpacking trips and cross-country skiing with my babies. My oldest in particular was very adverse to cold; anything over a light wind and he was howling. Both kids refused to keep mittens on in the ski trailer. My kids love being outdoors now though, rain or shine. Is it because we schlepped them all over as babies? Maybe, or maybe not, but we created some great memories in the process.

How did you get back outdoors after pregnancy? Any tips for expectant parents?

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two little boys, ages 3 and 6. Shes currently enjoying the expat life in Japan.

Messy Outdoor Fun

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Messy outdoor funWarm weather is here and there is nothing more fun than spending time playing outdoors with your baby. Outdoor activities are a fun excuse to strip your baby down to his diaper, soak up the vitamin D and get messy!

Sensory activities provide extra stimulation for your baby, allowing them to use their senses connecting smell, touch, hearing, sight and so much more while building neurological pathways and having fun. Plus, studies show that baby can build her immune system just by getting a little dirty now and then.

First of all, you don’t need a fancy sand or water table to create a sensory table. All you need are a few shallow, large plastic bins. I like using the ones sold for under-the-bed storage. They’re large enough for more than one child to play and shallow enough for your child to get in there and get messy while playing on the floor.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for hours of outdoor fun using things other than sand and water, which kids also love!

Slimy worms box. All you need is a few boxes of the cheapest pasta you can find, cook it up so it’s not too mushy and dump it into a bin once it’s cooled down. Use lots of different shapes of pasta and mix in some long spaghetti to make it more fun. If baby is still gumming everything you can add some vegetable-based food coloring to it to make it more fun. If they’re past that stage and you’re OK with a little bit of a mess, you can add some non-toxic finger paint to it, or let your child do it.

Dumping and Pouring. You can use a variety of things for this one: beans, raw pasta, rice, corn, oats–whatever you can find. Get together a variety of different-sized containers and let them explore pouring and dumping and learning about volume.

Ice castles. With a few disposable tin foil baking molds (think loaf pans, cake pans, casseroles) you can make great blocks for building castles. Pour some water mixed with food coloring into the molds, freeze overnight and you’ve got yourself some great melting blocks to build an ice castle.

Body Painting. Tape a large piece of paper to the floor and get out the finger paints. Look around for some different things you can use for painting (leaves, grass, rocks, marbles, anything really), pour some paint onto a tray and encourage your baby to use all the different supplies as well as their hands, feet or elbows.

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor focused on nutrition and green living strategies. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception, through pregnancy, lactation and beyond to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mother and baby.





Sun Safety for Babies

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Babies love being outdoors, and it’s great for them. Being outdoors can help regulate their circadian rhythms, boots vitamin D levels, and can even help you avoid illness since UV rays kill bacteria. However, you have to be much more careful with their delicate skin than you do with your own. How can you make sure baby gets lots of natural vitamin D without getting sun damage?

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests sun avoidance for babies under 6 months old. This is partly due to the unknown safety of sunscreen on babies this age and also their immobility.  It is easy to keep this age baby in the shade. You can also put your baby in a brimmed hat and protective clothing. For older babies and children, The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a comprehensive sun protection approach, which includes avoiding peak sun exposure, wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen.

Sun Safety for Babies

Avoid Peak Sun Exposure

Avoiding peak exposure basically means keeping your kids out of the sun during the middle of the day. We usually try to get outside early in the morning and after lunch and naps. This type of schedule helps us avoid peak sun time.  Middle of the day activities could be inside play at home or a trip to the library.

Wear Protective Clothing

Wearing protective clothing can be a little more challenging if it is hot outside, but it can be done.  We try to wear lightweight long-sleeved clothing, brimmed hats and sunglasses. Our kids love sunglasses; they love to be like mom and dad and look and feel fashionable. If we are going to the pool during peak sun hours, I also make sure my kids wear rash-guard swimsuits to cover up more skin.

Use Sunscreen

I will be totally honest with you: I hate sunscreen! I have hated it my entire life. I think it is the feel or smell of it.  If we are out in peak sun or out for a long time, I try to get sunscreen on my kids. I like Californial Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+. This is good for sensitive skin and does not contain any chemicals. Another even more natural option is to make your own sunscreen; I have a few friends that do this. EWG is a great resource for finding safe products for children. Their rating systems spell out what exactly is in each product and why it’s harmful, and they come out with a new list of top picks each summer.

Warm days can be lots of fun, but make sure you take the necessary steps to make sun play fun and not end up with sunburns.

Kristen Beggs is a mom of two outdoor loving kids who tries to keep them safe in the sun.