Here’s How To Do It Right And Have A Fun, Memorable Experience.

A little planning goes a long way when snowshoeing with kids. Credit: Crystal Mountain

On a winter trail outing near my home, I ran into a neighbor and her grandchild on snowshoes—and it was not going well. The kid was uncomfortable and headed back home by herself. Grandma kept going, and since she is a neighbor, I went along with her for a while and chatted. It was clear she was not aware of how to help her granddaughter have a good time on a cold winter day on snowshoes. So, here’s a primer about snowshoeing with the grandkids.

Snowshoes

You can get children’s snowshoes that are used or new but it’s really important to get the right size. For the youngest kids—four-eight years old—get colorful snowshoes but ensure they are secure on the foot and easy to put on. Most snowshoe companies have a snowshoe for kids.

Clothing

Light layers of clothing are comfortable, and you can add or remove clothing as needed (i.e., if it gets too hot). A lightweight synthetic base layer of long underwear helps to keep your grandkid dry and transports perspiration away. A middle layer that provides insulation like a shirt or sweater with a jacket shell as outer layer works great. Don’t forget a headband or light hat and a pair of appropriate gloves. Alpine ski gloves will be too warm for snowshoeing unless it is very cold outside.

The goal is for the kids to recognize when it is too cold or too hot and to encourage them to adjust layers so they feel comfortable with the temperature. Wearing a backpack will allow kids to stash or pull out the extra clothes, and feel self sufficient.

Fun on Snowshoes

If you want it to be a good time for them (and you), you have to make the snowshoeing outing less “boring” and more exciting. Also, your first few outings should be short and easy so that the kids don’t feel that snowshoeing is “too much work.” Maybe they can take pictures with a camera or cell phone. Plan ahead and discuss what to look for—perhaps there are different kinds of scenic views, trees, animals, tracks, and silly poses that you can do. You can’t stop too many times to take photos. Pose for them, take selfies, get some photos of them without you, send them out on social media, etc. You’re making and saving memories!

Set up a scavenger hunt on the trail (hang or hide treats or something); the kids can look for and accumulate the hidden treasures.

Kids love candy and perhaps they’ll love to go snowshoeing to look for candy that is cached (hidden in specific locations in bags). Take them on a “Quest for the Candy” by following hints that you write in advance as a poetic treasure map to follow. This is a new type of orienteering for children.

Choose the Trail

Make sure to take the kids on interesting trails and accept that “interesting” for them may be very different than it is for you. Have a destination such as waterfalls or hilltop, or a site for wildlife spotting. Discuss this issue prior to planning the trek so you are aware of what they might enjoy. Be aware about whether the child is over his or her head—the trail may be too steep, too long, or you are not getting to the destination soon enough.

If you want to avoid all of this decision-making, go to a cross country ski area that can accommodate kids on snowshoes like Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH. They have a scavenger hunt called “Trail Tracker” which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creature signs, they stamp a card, and, upon return to the lodge, they get a treat.

Hydrate and Snacks

Plenty of snacks and drinks are a must. If you are going out more than a half hour pack enough water or drinks. The kids get thirsty fast, and they may like to play the “I’m thirsty” card when they want a break. Granola bars, sandwiches, energy drinks, fresh fruit, and crackers to provide ample energy boosts but also consider some snacks that you know they enjoy like chocolate or candy bars.

A Great Time with the Grandkids

Go for a snowshoe adventure rather than just a snowshoe hike. Take the opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature and exercise, while at the same time having bonding time with your family; you’ll be glad you did.

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