Yes, you read that headline correctly. Even if you love snowshoeing or just getting started yourself, this blog is for YOU!
Snow shoeing is a great lifetime fitness activity for people of any age but especially for children. This is mainly due to their natural curiosity of how and why items in nature grow, look and feel. Exposing your children (or even your nieces, nephews, or students) to education through physical activity and nature will not only allow you to use their curiosity to your benefit, but you’re providing/demonstrating that being physically active while using their senses (eyes, ears, noses) is fun!
Now that you’re inspired to have your children snowshoe, here are our 4 key tips to ensure your children are properly equipped, safe and ready to be enjoy their adventure!
1). Consider your children’s age.
Children between the ages of 4 and 6 are often the most curious and adventurous. This is developmentally due to how their brain is developing. Stop and think for a moment of how many “Why does….or But Why” questions you get from them in a day. Introducing your children at this age is ideal. They WANT to know and they WANT to try new activities. For children ages of 7 and above, snow shoeing can still be introduced but you will want to include more detail in your adventure (see the tip on trip planning).
We can NOT stress this tip enough! The proper clothing, including layers, is key for snow shoeing. Children and adults should wear clothing made of wool, polyester or a combination of polyester. They should then wear the typical snow pants, snow/ski boots (we recommend water proofed hiking boots) , snow/ski jackets, hat, neck gaiter and especially mittens. Don’t be afraid to carry ski googles, an extra scarf, a ski mask and Chapstick™. BONUS tip, put Vaseline™ on the areas of your face that will be exposed like your nose, lips and cheeks. It is a great barrier to assist in windburn prevention. Remember, it is ALWAYS easier to take layers off and put them in our backpack.
They should be given hiking/trekking poles that can be adjusted for their height. The poles should extend to just above their hips (higher if they are leaning when walking). Their snowshoes should be appropriate for their height/weight, even the fun themed ones (as seen in the pictures). Bonus for using the fun themed ones is that children love to leave ‘monster’ steps!
Children should also be encouraged to carry their own backpack. Their backpack should be the hiking variety (not a school based one) and not weigh more than 15% of their body weight. Be sure that you fit the bag to their back and all straps are snug (hip on hips, chest across chest). By carrying their own bag, they are proud/excited to carry their own snacks, water and extra gloves. Increase their excitement by tying a multi use compass to the shoulder strap so that they can look at it for direction, blow the whistle if they need to or use the magnify class to look at nature items (SNOWFLAKES UP CLOSE RULE!)
3). Trip Planning.
For children under the age of 9, we recommend snowshoeing trails that are minimal in elevation and that the trip last no more than 45 minutes. This equates to approximately traveling a trail out and back for a total of 0.50 miles. This is due to their overall physical endurance, attention span and to limit exposure to the elements. For children between the ages of 9 and 13, we recommend adding elevation and distance over multiple trips to assist in building their physical endurance, attention span and overall enjoyment of this lifetime activity.Letchworth State Park, Allegany State Park, Knox Farms State Park, and Chestnut Ridge Park all have a variety of trails that are well marked for snow shoeing. Many of these parks provide a heated building/bathroom which is ideal for using after the adventure to have lunch, switch out of clothes and/or to take a break from the elements.
4). Trip engagement/enjoyment
As we mentioned above, one of our favorite items for children to use while snowshoeing is the multi-use compass. Teaching children basic directions and having them follow the arrows is a great way to keep them occupied while moving. We tend to ask our young clients to identify the direction of the parking lots, lodge or a specific landmark on a trail. We also use the multi-use compass magnify glass to have the look at snowflakes, pine cones, and tree bark up close. This ALWAYS results in more questions or more excitement to find the next cool thing they can look at.
One of the MOST important engagement we teach/encourage for our snowshoeing children is to have them to use the whistle function if they feel cold or tired. This teaches them how to call for help appropriately and also it assists you in knowing how they “feel” with regards to the elements. We give reminders/praise before, during and after for using it appropriately.
Once you have built their endurance and ability to go up elevation, be sure you remind them to lean forward going up the hill and lean back going down/stepping sideways. This will prevent falling over due to their backpacks/body (remember children’s heads tend to be larger than their body still) and losing control of their body (going down the hill). You can have them slide down on their butts (this is a very popular activity for adults who hike mountains during the winter). Be sure you take the snow shoes off/strap them to their bags to prevent injuries (they must pick up their feet to slide).
Remember; these are just our recommendations/tips based upon our education and experience. We ALWAYS recommend you follow the 10 principles of Leave No Trace ™ and consult us for additional knowledge/education prior to your actual adventure/outing/trip.
By reading the above recommendations/tips you have agreed/acknowledged/accepted the following: I know that participation in any of the above outdoor adventure activity by myself or any minor whom I am legally responsible for is a potentially hazardous activity, which could cause injury or death. I, the reader, assume all risks associated with me or any minor whom I am legally responsible for, participating in any of the above recommendations, including but not limited to: falls, the effects of the weather, including high heat and/or humidity, winter conditions, traffic and the conditions of the road/trails. All such risks being known and appreciated by me. Having read this waiver and knowing these facts, I, for any minor I am legally responsible for, myself and anyone entitled to act on my behalf, waive and release Brianne Blaszak (blog writer) and OARS of WNY, LLC (DBA Endlessly Outdoors Company) , their representatives and successors from all claims or liabilities of any kind arising out of my participation in the above recommendations, even though that liability may arise on the part of the persons named in this waiver.