Coaches routinely employ rousing speeches and inspirational stories to motivate their teams to play better. The same holds true with my friend Andrea Bertini, a coach for a university women’s basketball team and the co-author of this blog. Through the years she’s successfully coached and coaxed her teams to reach heights they never dreamt possible. All seemed to be going well with her life and motivational tactics until she decided to start a family with her partner, Diana. Her son, Charlie, was wise beyond his years and wouldn’t fall for her attempts to motivate him on outdoor adventures. Plus, Andrea grew up in the suburbs as a gym rat – to her wilderness was a scary place with wild animals. It didn’t help when a bear ran through their yard in the middle of Charlie’s first birthday party! Since then, it’s been a labor of love for Andrea to enjoy her outdoor adventures with Charlie, Diana and her newborn son, Joseph.
Recently, we were on a walk with four children under the age of five when a total stranger commented, “I hate to tell you but it never works.” We started hiking with each of our boys when they were two months old, so we’ve become accustomed to people telling us we’ve lost our minds. There will always be critics, but don’t let these people discourage you. Outdoor adventures with infants and toddlers aren’t only doable; for us, they are essential to maintaining our sanity and taking a break from the grueling routine that we, as two working parents, experience. That doesn’t mean there won’t be meltdowns or mishaps but it does mean you have to stay committed to engaging in these adventures even though there will be days when you want to scream, go home, and never leave the house again. Here are some of the strategies we use to get out and about:
1. Always have a list:
- Snacks – A MUST HAVE!
- Take breaks for rest, diaper changes, breast feeding etc., but have a plan to get everyone moving again.
- Test gear, such as packs or bike seats/trailers on shorter trips first. Also, it helps to let kids wear their helmets or lifejackets around the house before using them outside.
- Have a zero tolerance policy for unsafe behavior. For example, no helmet equals no Strider bike.
Because our goal is to get outside during the week, we have a list of routes near our house. These are small and convenient adventures that don’t require an enormous amount of preparation, but are still interesting for our children.
Having a destination discourages distractions – Charlie can look at an ant for 10 minutes easily – and encourages a faster pace. Some destinations we suggest: play structures, friend’s houses, statues (the town next to us displays painted bear statues which the kids love), water of any kind and friendly animals. We walk to see Chester, the horse, who lives just down the road from us.
4. Create a Treasure box:
We have created a treasure box for our kids where they can place special items they find during adventures. Before our son was old enough to do this, we chose items he showed an interest in and created a sensory box he could explore any time. Now, he can open the box and talk about each treasure inside.
5. Art projects:
Our children use items found on their adventures to make centerpieces for the table. Photo frames are great projects because you can use a picture of your adventure and decorate the frame with items found on that same adventure. Projects make great gifts for the kids to give to friends or relatives.
Diana Schwartz & Andrea Bertini
Play safe out there!
PhD, Brooks-Range Mountaineering Product Ambassador,
Assistant Professor Westfield State University, AMGA member