LONE CONE Ambassador, Robin, reached out to us to share some great ideas for parents who want their kids to spend ample time outside, while staying safe during the ongoing pandemic. Robin and her husband, Brian, live in Colorado, where they are raising 4-year-old twins and a one-year-old boy. They love the outdoors, clean simple living and adventure! Brian is in medical school and Robin homeschools the little ones.
I have a confession to make: As a mama of four-year-old twins and a year-old baby boy who is passionate about raising them in the wild, I have REALLY failed at outdoor time this year. We recently moved from my parent's little home in the beautiful country to a city condo with zero yard so we could be nearer to my husband's school, and then COVID hit. I went from a mama who basically lived outside, served meals, and did outdoor school to one who hardly left the house.
I was depressed, my kids were depressed, and frankly we were all going crazy. Between the change of location and the intimidating virus, I became completely terrified of leaving the house. In the last month, I had to sit down and make some radical decisions for my kids' sake (and mine). I spent some time identifying what was prohibiting us from getting outdoors and working on tips to overcome those obstacles. These are five of the things that have really helped me get my family outdoors safely again. I hope they help you, too!
1. Be even more prepared than usual.
Make certain everyone has their own water bottles/snacks and the ability to carry them (except babies, of course). Make certain you know where essentials are, like sunscreen and hand sanitizer, and that they're easily accessible. You won’t want to be digging for sanitizer in an outhouse with toddlers. Facts are, as much as my kids and I prefer the squat-in-the-woods approach, many of us will be on trails too populated for the drop and squat method.
If you’ll be needing masks, make certain they fit everyone well and won’t need constant adjusting. I had resisted investing in child-size masks (hoping this all would pass before it has!) but after an adventure that required constant mask adjustments I got each one of the kiddos their own in the proper size. Make certain everyone is wearing the proper gear. It doesn’t have to be fancy! We hit the outdoors in old leggings and rain boots 99% of the time (the other 1% we go in rain boots and shorts!).
Items I have found absolutely mandatory are snacks, water, good sun hats, comfortable footwear, and sunscreen. You don’t need the latest, greatest breathable shirts and fancy hiking pants to have fun! There is nothing wrong with investing in great gear but don't let not having the means to do so stop you from getting out.
2. Be ready to rethink on-the-go snacks.
If you’re out in an area where you need to wear masks, you might need to step away from the trail for snack breaks. (Eating through a mask is, well, not exactly easy!) Usually we snack as we wander and then take a lunch break, but on a recent very populated hike we had to stop for every snack. This added time and also increased how many snacks we went through! Bring more snacks than usual and plan for the extra break time.
While we are talking snacks, I like to think of myself as a fairly green mama. We reuse and recycle and do all we can. But if being able to head out for a family hike right now means bringing some pre-packed Annie's fruit snacks for your kiddos, do it. I love our reusable snack bags on hikes and frankly never buy plastic baggies anymore. But the other day at Costco I picked up a box of Annie's and a box of fruit-veggie squeezes, and I was very thankful for them on our hike that day. There are more factors than usual involved in getting the family outdoors right now and, sometimes, we have to prioritize our choices. Just be sure to carry out any snacks and wrappers you bring with you. 😊
3. Be flexible!
We recently went on a hike that was honestly insanely stressful. It was extraordinarily busy, and even without the current COVID precautions, would have caused me anxiety. Mountain bikes raced past us and runners without masks huffed and puffed past. Although recent studies have shown that transfer of the virus outdoors is basically null, and I am NOT a paranoid person, I just don’t want people I don't know breathing all over my kids. Halfway through I regretted my decision to not do something else that day. It’s hard, packing up the family and arriving at a trailhead only to turn around because it’s over-populated or the weather is bad. But we have learned it is absolutely worth it. Find a nearby stream, wade and toss some rocks. Have a picnic in the back of the car. Pick a few leaves and flowers and dry them in a book when you get back. Speaking of expectations...
4. Small is ok!
Getting outdoors doesn’t have to be epic every time. Whether you can walk out your front door into nature or you have to travel to it, as parents who want our children to grow up in nature the pressure can feel intense to make every experience a grand one.
I’m learning that even the tiniest of adventures mean everything to our little ones. The other day we read Pooh on the porch while the baby napped, and the day before that we played in the mud on the driveway. Both experiences were a huge hit. Big adventures are awesome too, but don’t let the fear of it not being exciting enough keep you from doing anything at all!
5. Do your research.
I personally love to get in the car and look up places while we’re driving, but right now there are some serious complications to that plan (or lack thereof!). The place you’re headed might be closed, or under other restrictions. Depending on the time of day, it might be frighteningly overpopulated (as I recently learned the hard way!). The same trail could be a heavenly experience at 8am but, well, not heavenly at 2pm. Important things to find out before leaving the house are:
Is the place you're going open or under restricted hours?
Are there specific busy times?
Are there special passes or reservations required (Our nearest National Park requires advance passes and scheduling the time of your visit!)?
Lastly, remember that all your kids care about is fun with YOU! The simple fact that you're trying to get your family outdoors is everything! Be kind to yourself! I hope that these tips help you or at least help you to brainstorm ways for you to get out safely and easily with your family!