Snowshoeing is a great winter activity for getting outside and keeping active. More convenient (and cheaper!) than downhill skiing or snowboarding, and easier for little kids than cross-country skiing, snowshoeing is something the whole family can enjoy with just a little preparation and investment.
Last winter, my husband and I bought these nice “step-in” snowshoes from L.L. Bean, which means you can use pretty much any snow boot with them. Since we were only planning on being occasional users, we opted not to get poles (although I could see poles being handy for more hardcore enthusiasts). That meant that the snowshoes were the only equipment we needed before heading out into the great snowy wilderness, aside from the usual winter layers of clothing, hats, and gloves.
For my four-year-old son, we originally purchased a pair of Snow Paw children’s snowshoes. While my son loved the cute bear prints these shoes left behind on shorter trips (read: around the backyard and down the driveway), I found the straps difficult to adjust and rather flimsy. A longer hike down a snowy beach left me exhilarated, but my son fell a number of times and ended up facedown in a drift of snow sobbing about returning to the car. Not exactly what I pictured for our wintertime family fun.
I would definitely recommend choosing substance over style for kids’ snowshoes. For our next excursion, we upgraded to these Little Bear Spiderman snowshoes: they still looked cool but stayed on a lot better and felt much sturdier. My sister got the L.L. Bean Winter Walker snowshoes for her two-year-old, and both mom and babe have been happy with them. Each brand adjusts to fit up to 50 to 60 pounds, so the kids should be able to wear them for at least a few years.
The best thing about snowshoeing is that once you have the snowshoes, pretty much all you need is snow. Mother Nature’s been a bit fickle about that recently but when it does snow, you should head out as soon as possible. There’s something incredibly peaceful about walking atop fresh snow, feeling the winter sun on your face, and thinking maybe, just maybe, you heard the first robin tentatively calling out for spring.
Nature/Nurture, written by Michelle Riggen-Ransom, is an occasional column with ideas and information to help kids and their families engage with the natural world in fun, interesting ways. Share your thoughts and explorations by adding your comment below, or contact us with your story ideas.