Over­land & Trail Tips for Tak­ing Your Kids


My in­ter­est in all things dirty and four-wheel drive be­gan at a very young age. It all started with the sight­ing of a beau­ti­ful FJ40 Land Cruiser sit­ting at the shop where my par­ent’s ve­hi­cle was be­ing re­paired. I was ab­so­lutely mes­mer­ized by the tan paint job, the white top, the tall, skinny, all-ter­rain tires. It just looked right! From then on, I dreamt of off-road ad­ven­tures, wait­ing for the day that they might be­come re­al­ity.

My son, now four years old, has been no dif­fer­ent. He could tell a Jeep from a Land Cruiser by the time he was three

and at ev­ery mo­ment, he de­sires to be dirty and ad­ven­tur­ous. His in­ter­est started with his first off-road­ing ad­ven­ture at 17 months old and he has tagged along on al­most ev­ery one since.

I asked him the other day why he loved off-road­ing. He told me that he loved when the trucks got stuck on the bumpy trails and when they broke. Then, we would have to fix them. His favourite part though was do­ing it all with his dad and the other guys! It made him feel spe­cial. It made him feel like he was re­ally a part of a team on an ad­ven­ture. Be­cause of this, he has been ea­ger to learn and to earn his spot in the group. This has made the trips that we go on an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to teach and, in turn, view the world through fresh eyes.

Of course, there are a num­ber of rea­sons why you might want to leave your young kids be­hind when you hit the trails. Per­haps tak­ing small chil­dren into the wilder­ness is com­pli­cated or in­tim­i­dat­ing and you just don’t know how to make it work or where to start. Let’s face it, kids tend not to lis­ten to crit­i­cal safety ad­vice or any ad­vice for that mat­ter. They get bored. They get tired. Then they whine about be­ing bored and tired. De­pend­ing on age, they may not be potty trained or per­haps are in the midst of fig­ur­ing it out. Re­gard­less, com­bin­ing the rugged out­doors and all of the bugs, heat, rain, poi­son ivy, and other haz­ards with par­ent­ing small chil­dren is a chal­lenge all its own!

If this is you, I would like to share some in­sights that I have learned from over­land­ing and off-road­ing with my son as well as my seven year old daugh­ter.

First, start small. Bring your kids on day runs, whether back­road ram­bling or mild trails. They will prob­a­bly get bored at some point, but that can be mit­i­gated with reg­u­lar stops, easy-to-grab snack bag­gies, and in-ve­hi­cle toys or en­ter­tain­ment. The beauty of a day run is that you can head home when they have reached their limit and pro­gres­sively work up to longer and longer runs from there. My kids started at half a day be­fore go­ing berserk. Now, they are both com­fort­able spend­ing the bet­ter part of the day in the truck. To be hon­est, they of­ten fall asleep for large por­tions of the drive, even on the rough­est ter­rain. If you have a child that needs fre­quent bath­room stops, a small potty or por­ta­ble toi­let, kept quickly ac­ces­si­ble, will al­low you to stop when and where nec­es­sary.

Sec­ond, mit­i­gate against sources of frus­tra­tion. There are many sources of anx­i­ety and frus­tra­tion for kids when

Qual­ity bug jack­ets keep it fun.

Have easy snacks and en­ter­tain­ment on hand.

Keep them con­tained and en­ter­tained while mak­ing din­ner.

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