My husband runs a whitewater rafting business and he’s been running rivers his whole life. So, our summers involve a LOT of time outside – rafting, camping, swimming, and playing.
In fact, we never really got a honeymoon – we needed to be on the water as river guides five days after our wedding. The outdoors are a huge piece of our story together and we knew it would always remain that way, even when we started having kids.
We now have a little boy, Rowan – he’s two and a half (oh man, is he two and a half!), and we have another kid (gender TBD) on the way, due in December. With the amount of river miles Rowan has already traveled in his short little lifespan, I’m pretty convinced that he’ll guide guests down Class IV rapids by the time he’s six.
I see you chuckling like I’m joking.
Because of our lifestyle and occupation, spending time outdoors isn’t just something we like to do in our spare time – it’s something that’s required of us, and because of that, it’s required us to induct our kid into this lifestyle, too.
I get asked about taking little kids in the outdoors all the time. What should I expect? What should I pack for the day? How do I do it safely? All of these are legitimate questions.
I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve taken Rowan hiking, rafting, camping and swimming outside enough times to have a good idea on how to answer the basics.
The thing I love telling parents the most? It’s not as hard as you think. There are obviously going to be some equipment differences depending on your activity, but these are the absolute must-haves for any day trip outside. In other words, don’t leave the house without your backpack filled with these items!
Here are some of the essentials to taking your baby or toddler into the outdoors for big adventures:
I know, it seems obvious, right? But it’s the one thing I can’t stress enough – especially in this record-breaking summer heat. It is SO important to stay hydrated. Invest in a few good water bottles, including one for each of your kids. We use double-walled aluminum bottles – they’re durable, insulated and lightweight.
Again, a no-brainer. Make sure you have plenty of high-energy foods and snacks for your day. If your kid is on formula (like mine was), make sure you pack enough, and then enough for at least three extra feedings. Parents, it’s easy to remember snacks and meals for your kids, but make sure you’re feeding yourself, too.
3. Sunscreen / hat
We are actually really bad about this. My husband doesn’t burn and Rowan is lucky and inherited his dad’s skin. I have to work hard to remember sunscreen for the guys. Even if you or your kids don’t have a tendency to burn, sunscreen is really important in protecting their skin from those harmful rays. Throw in a couple of baseball caps too – nothing worse than a burned scalp. Ouch!
Photo by vastateparksstaff
4. First aid & safety equipment
We have a pretty extensive first aid kit that we’ve been adding to and updating over the course of the last few years. We keep it in a water-tight dry bag and grab it anytime we go do anything outdoors. It’s something worthwhile to invest in – it’s awesome if you never have to use it, but absolutely priceless if you find yourself in a situation where it’s needed. Also, remember to grab all of the necessary safety equipment for your day. For instance: if you’re going on the river, make sure you have the appropriate life jacket for each person that fits them properly.
5. Your kid’s must-haves
When we go anywhere (and I do mean anywhere), we make sure to throw in just a handful of Matchbox cars for Rowan. They diffuse difficult situations easily, keep him occupied when we’re setting up camp, and give him a little sense of familiarity. Does your baby still take a pacifier? Grab a few. Still in diapers? Grab those, too. Does your little one sleep with a favorite stuffed animal or blanket? Make sure that goes into the bag. Whatever will soothe your child or distract them when needed, it’s always a good thing to bring.
6. A good day pack
Now that you have your list and everything set aside, you need something to throw it all in! Waterproof is a must-have for us, but at the very least, make sure you try on the pack in the store to make sure it’s a good fit for your shoulders and back.
That’s it! Not too bad, huh? Water, food, sunscreen, first aid, and a couple specific must-haves, and you’re ready for a day outside in the summer with your little one.
What are your summer must-haves for outings with your kiddos?