A ‘Little’ PERSPECTIVE
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.