Kids and the outdoors are a natural match—with endless space to explore and play, activities to enjoy, and fresh air to breathe, outdoor time is one of the best ways for a family to be together. But there can be a lot to consider when going on adventures with kids in the outdoors; from safety to snacks, gear to activities, kids require extra attention on outdoor adventures. So we’ve put together this advice column, “Ask an Adventure Parent” to help answer some of the questions our readers might have about their kids and the outdoors. Real talk, real parents, real experiences.
Meet Chris Selby. Though he now lives in Colorado, he was born in the Pacific Northwest where he grew up playing in the mountains of the North Cascades. Chris and his wife are the parents of two amazing girls, ages 4 and 2, and his main passions include alpine and rock climbing, endurance sports, and fly fishing.
1. Where’s the best place to get my child started outdoor climbing? Is there a good camp or clinic that I could sign her up for?
If your family is new to climbing, I would encourage you to contact your local climbing gym. My family and I have been members at CityRock climbing gym in Colorado Springs for years. CityRock does a fantastic job accommodating young families and small children. They have a specific kid room where the kids can run and climb around, and they also offer a great youth program for kids ages 4-7 years old. Learning proper technique and rope skills indoors is a great way to transition into outdoor climbing. Working with a local guide service is also a great option. Pikes Peak Alpine School is based out of Colorado Springs and offers complete guide services for rock, snow, and ice. You can rent all the necessary gear through Pikes Peak Alpine School which is also really helpful if you are new to the sport. My family and I are fortunate to have a number of close friends with a wide range of ability and interest in climbing. Heading out with friends who also have young kids makes it much easier to enjoy your time at the crag. So put a crew together, and get out there!
2. What are best hiking practices with kids?
I have found the most successful hiking trips with my family have been when we really loosen up our expectations for the day. It is typical to have a set goal or specific agenda when you head out for a hike. However, getting to the top of the mountain or reaching the end of the trail can take a backseat to simply being outside together. My kids are ages 2 and 4, so we feel it is most important to simply be outside and foster a sense of adventure and love of nature.
Pro Tip: Pack plenty of snacks and water. Being able to offer the kids a healthy snack to chew on while we hike around helps keep everyone in a good mood.
3. What’s the best way for kids to enjoy water sports in Colorado?
We have had a blast with our kids on our paddle boards this summer. Our Hala ‘Atcha’ is a perfect all around board. You can check them out here: Hala Gear. It is designed primarily for white water but performs really well on flat water as well. The white water performance features make it a really stable and fun board. My wife and I are able to paddle out on the water with a kid sitting up front. Our oldest is four years old, and she can maneuver the board by herself close to shore. Earlier in the summer while camping in Bend, Oregon, our four year old was able to jump on a kid-sized kayak, and she loved it. Both of our kids have been enrolled in swim lessons from a young age, and we have strict guidelines when playing around water.
Pro Tip: Make sure to fit your child properly with a personal flotation device (PFD) before getting on the water.
4. How did your adventure life change when you had kids? How did you adapt, and what’s one activity that you now enjoy most as a family?
Personally, my adventure life has not changed all too drastically, though it takes a lot more effort and dedication to train around a work and family schedule. Carving out personal time can be challenging. There are a lot of early mornings and late night climbing sessions and trail runs. When we had kids, my wife found herself doing the Manitou Incline with a child on her back instead of solo. Probably the hardest change has been that my wife and I aren’t able to get out together nearly as much as we used to. Before kids, we were able to get outside together as often as we liked, doing whatever we liked. Together as a family, we mostly enjoy camping and getting out on the water as much as possible. Paddleboarding together and exploring more mild terrain is super fun. While we are out camping, we always bring our paddle boards, mountain bikes, fly rods, and some climbing gear. The addition of kids certainly changes things, but mostly for the better. Our family trips are full of tons of fun, great memories, sometimes a few tears, and a lot of laughter.
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