Outdoor Adventures with Infants and Toddlers Part I: “You’re not going to take a stroller?”

Professors are a strange bunch. They live in an abstract world filled with ideas and hypotheses guided by theories and paradigms. They seem to be in a perpetual state of conducting research on their theories yet they seldom have the opportunity to test their theories in the “real world.” My good friends, Diana Schwartz, PhD and her partner Andrea Bertini are the exception to this rule. Diana is a sports psychologist by training and for the last two-plus years has been raising an infant son while pursuing her passion for an outdoorsy lifestyle. Her family, which recently expanded to include another son, has given her the unique opportunity to test her sports psychology theories on her sons while participating in outdoor adventures. These outdoor adventures, many of which I’ve taken part in, are often entertaining, usually comical, and always enlightening.

Mom taking baby on walk in stroller

The objective of this two-part blog is to share some lessons and strategies for adventuring in the outdoors that we’ve learned as the moms of two boys: Joseph, 3 months old and Charlie, 2 years old. In Part I we share three stories that helped us refine our approach to outdoor adventures, while Part II will include strategies to try on the days you wonder why you would ever leave the house with small children.      

Story 1: As soon as we announced we were having a baby, many warned that life as we knew it was over. How much your life changes when you become a parent is actually, in some respects, up to you. For example, we continue to hike with our children; yet, we pressed the pause button on kayaking. When we attempted to take Charlie kayaking at the age of one, the water was calm and peaceful, but the air was filled with blood curdling screams. He clung to us as if Great White Sharks surrounded the boat. Why were we torturing him in a life jacket that seemed to be swallowing his head, when he still couldn’t walk, let alone swim? We then realized that kids don’t have to experience everything before they enter preschool. We want our kids to have a bucket list of experiences to look forward to fulfilling, and it looks like kayaking will be on the list.

Baby in chest carrier on hiking trailStory 2: One winter day after a snowstorm, one of us decided to take Charlie, who was 6 months old, hiking with a friend who is a professional guide. The mountain looked amazing covered in glistening, white snow and the air was calm. We could have hiked forever. Unfortunately, the mountain closed at 4 pm. It took the police close to an hour to come and unlock the gate so we could go home. This humiliating experience prompted us to develop the “evening news test” – when we are trying to determine if an adventure is safe for the boys, we imagine the worst case scenario, that scenario happening to another family and their story ending up on the evening news. Then, we ask ourselves how much would we laugh, cry or make fun of their stupidity.     

Baby learning to walk by waterStory 3: Once Charlie started to walk, he wanted nothing to do with strollers/packs. Recognizing that when kids develop a new skill they tend to look for opportunities to use it, we let him walk. This led to his grandmother asking each time we left the house, “You’re not going to take a stroller?” We thought about it and responded, “He’s a kid not a wild animal that needs to be caged.” Now, Charlie will ask to go in the stroller/pack when he needs a rest, but he prefers to be on his own two feet!

Stay tuned; as our boys grow, we are sure to learn many more lessons – sometimes the hard way. If you would like to share your stories or have any questions, please feel free to contact us

Diana Schwartz & Andrea Bertini

Play safe out there!

Dr. Kevin
PhD, Brooks-Range Mountaineering Product Ambassador,
Assistant Professor Westfield State University, AMGA member

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