Northern Waters - Paddling with kids
Thoughts on paddling with kids
When our kids were very young (under 4), we did trips only on lakes in less remote areas. Our first trip was the Powell River Forest Canoe Route (youngest age 1 1/2). As they got older, we began to tackle more remote areas, sea kayaking and easy rivers. When our eldest was 11, we needed to use two boats with one adult and one kid in each boat. At that point, we had to change our trips again as we needed to go shorter distances and could not tackle strong winds with only one adult. Also rivers were a challenge with one adult in the boat. Then when our eldest turned 13, we joined a white water canoe club and started going on trips with harder white water; both kids joined a flat water racing club to train during the summer before our trips. When our youngest turned 12 (oldest 15), they began to be able to carry adults loads and paddle most of the day, but they still didn't enjoy that so much so we still go quite a bit less hard than we would on our own. So the trips keep changing as our kids get older.
How we travelled with young kids:
Stuff? We didn't take a whole lot of stuff. Young kids like sticks and frog spawn and that's what our kids played with. We didn't take a whole lot of clothes or shoes, but rather took clothes that dried easily.
Keeping them entertained? Stories, songs, sticks, frog spawn and a hearty resistance to whining. Short paddle sessions (1-2 hours at a time). Early on, we did trips with lots of portaging because that broke up the paddling and gave the kids time to play. On shore, our kids entertained themselves by playing Huck Finn, building forts, and catching wildlife (caterpillars, frogs, snails and leeches). The absolute best thing for keeping them entertained is a friend (not sibling), but that wasn't possible on all our trips. As they got older, card games and novels were important for entertainment.
Keeping them safe? Life vests on at all times (i.e. in camp) for kids under 5 (or non-swimmers). No camping/stopping near moving or deep water until they were older. Make them stay in camp or within sight at all times (as much as possible which becomes harder as they get older). Make them wear a whistle at all times. Injuries? First, our kids aren't particularly injury prone and second we discouraged activities that had a high risk for broken bones (playing who can jump off the biggest boulder), burns (leaping over the campfire), and lacerations (messing with knives and axes). When we started paddling northern rivers, we bought them drysuits (you can get non-goretex ones for under $400).
Keeping them comfortable? I wouldn't say our kids stayed comfortable all the time. We tried to teach them to be adaptable, resilient, and able to deal with a fair level of discomfort. We did make an effort to keep them from getting sunburned (i.e. clothed and hat on) and from getting eaten by the bugs (i.e. clothed or sprayed or in the tent).
What about wild animals, esp. bears? I'm not particularly worried about bears, although obviously we take precautions to keep a clean camp, to camp away from bear sign (scat, prints), and to stay out of bear areas (rivers full of salmon). Although bears do occasionally maul people and you need to be careful and cautious, they don't actually hunt people (except rarely). I'm more concerned about cougars as they will hunt kids. When we are on Vancouver Island where there have been a few cougar attacks, I keep the kids extra close and stay vigilant.
What did you do about diapers when your youngest was 1 1/2? He went naked when possible and wore disposables when that wasn't possible. We burned the used diapers. I know, I know, this was a sin but on the flip side we weren't burning fossil fuels (in our car) for a week.
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12/6/2013 10:45:01 PM