Before You Hit the Trail
Just like any outdoor adventure, it is important to plan ahead and prepare to ensure a safe, fun time for your family or group of kids. However, planning doesn't have to be considered a chore just for adults; part of the fun of snowshoeing can be working together to plan the adventure.
Planning your Route
Depending on the age of the kids you're taking snowshoeing and your own skill level, involving them in the process of planning a route can be a simple, powerful way for them to feel ownership in their adventure. It can be as simple as showing them a map of where they will be snowshoeing, having them draw out their own map, or teaching them basic elements of a map and compass.
Before you hit the snowshoe trail, make sure everyone has eaten a hearty breakfast or snack. Snowshoeing can burn lots of calories so starting off with some energy is essential. Why not get kids excited about the upcoming snowshoe adventure by making pancakes in the shape of snowmen? (See activities).
Lunches, Snacks & Hydration
In addition to a traditional sack lunch, make sure to bring along extra snacks and extra water. Nibbling on snacks and sipping water throughout the day will ensure energy and spirits stay high. Plus if you're out longer than expected you'll have plenty of energy to keep you going. An insulated thermos full of apple cider is always a big hit. It helps to cut the chill of a cold winter day without leading to the sugar or caffeine rush that can come from hot cocoa. Quick Tip: fill the thermos with hot water first to warm it up, then dump out the water and pour in the cider. Warming it up before hand will ensure it stays warm all day long!
Dress for Fun and Safety
Because a snowshoeing excursion can involve exercise, play, and rest, your kids' temperature level will rise and fall through the course of the day. Layering is the key to ensuring that your kids stay warm, dry, and comfortable during their snowshoe adventure. For a great explanation on layering tips, check out the Snowshoes.com layering article geared toward adults, but keep these key distinctions in mind:
Try starting off with the full layers so they are comfortable, but 10 minutes into the trip alert the group of a "Check-in, Shakedown" (see Activities). You'll get your kids' attention, get them focused on their bodies, and give them tools to communicate whether they are feeling hot, cold, or right on target.
When layering for any outdoor activity, it is essential to stay away from cotton fabrics - including underwear. Although it can be super comfortable, cotton does not dry quickly and when it is wet, either from snow or sweat, it does not retain heat. Stay away from jeans, cotton socks, cotton underwear, etc and try to dress your kids synthetic or other natural fabrics like wool or silk. Your kids will stay warmer, drier and happier! When you're not sure of the weather or your kids own comfort level, it is better to be safe than sorry, so dress them in one more layer than a normal adult would wear.
What to Bring for Kids
Beyond the basic essentials for winter adventuring, here are a few things you might want to remember for the kids:
Plastic Whistle: This is an essential safety item for kids. When they are given the whistle, suggest how it is a great honor to carry the safety whistle and teach them how it should only be used in emergencies. If they're whistle-happy and just want to keep blowing on it, try giving them an incentive suggesting that if they are able to abide by the rules of the secret whistle club (i.e. only using it in an emergency), they'll be able to blow it for a full 10 seconds when we get home.
Games: For the car-ride, snowball maker, & other misc items to keep kids engaged (see Activities).
Change of clothes in the car: Kids are bound to get wet because they are working up a sweat snowshoeing and having fun in the snow. You'll have a happier ride home if they change out of their wet clothes into dry, warm clothes once you get back to the car. Things will also be a little less chaotic when you arrive home: just unload the car and throw the wet clothes in the laundry.
Sunscreen: Snow reflects sunlight and can make it very intense even on a cloudy day
Friends! There's no better way to curb boredom than to bring a friend or two along for the trip. Make sure the friend has appropriate clothing to stay happy and dry during the snowshoeing adventure.
Hand Sanitizer and/or wipes