So you are thinking about snowshoes for you and your kids! What should you know about kids snowshoes? How young can you start? Where should you go? What works?
All great questions so lets' dive in.
How young should you start? Well, you can start almost as soon as they are walking really well on their own. Our kids started just around 2 1/2. It does depend on your child, though. If they are active and enjoy being outdoors, and will listen to you for guidance, you should be fine. On the other hand, if your child struggles a bit with their coordination or hates being cold, and you are the last one they want help from, you may want to hold off for another season. To be clear, there is no need to rush kids into activities that are going to cause them, and you nothing but frustration. I think as parents we sometimes feel if our kids don't start something at the same time as everyone else, they will fall behind. This may only be for the short term and most kids, when they are truly ready, will pick things up relatively quick. I have seen many examples of kids starting years later in a sport than some of their peers, and excelling at it relatively quick. Why? Because they are ready. They have become stronger more confident, and as kids get older they also generally become more coachable and can grasp the concepts better. So there is never any rush. Just go for it once you think they will have FUN!
Where should you go? When you are starting out, even the back or front yard can be enough of an adventure. If they become frustrated, or when they are ready to move on to something else, take the snowshoes off. Don't have lofty expectations for the first few outings, especially for younger kids. At the beginning, keep it fun, as they get used to the idea, they will start to see the benefits. Sometimes doing a short walk with snowshoes and then a walk without helps them to understand. Keep it as one of the activities while outside, and not the sole endeavor, so even if the time in snowshoes is short it is still associated with a fun playtime outside. If you don't have a yard, or they are ready for a bigger adventure you can usually find a nearby park or sometimes golf courses will allow snowshoes. Always check first, and if there are cross-country ski trails be sure to stay off them as well as any roped off areas. When the adventures continue to grow, check for local hiking trails or if you have family ski trips, save a bit of money and plan on a day exploring on snowshoes. Just do a bit of research before you go, to find snowshoeing areas close by.
What works? There are a lot of brand options and prices available. Some work and some don't. At alloutkids.com we carry the MSR brand for a few reasons. Number one, they work great, number two, they last. Starting with the smallest, "MSR Tyker," it works well for young children that are just starting out. It is small and light with molded traction bars on the bottom with a small steel crampon for traction. The weight limit is up to 90 Lbs.
One side note about weight limits. The maximum weight limit is intended for trail or firm snow use. If deep snow will be your main destination, make sure you are well below the maximum weight, for better flotation. The other thing to remember is, the weight limit is accounting for fully dressed and ready to be on the trail weight. So be sure to think if they would have a small pack on etc.
Probably the biggest feature of the "Tyker" is the lack of a pivot. Why? This works because, the snowshoe stays flat against the foot which helps with, not stepping on the back of the snowshoe, but it is also easier to back up, as the tail isn't dragging and digging into the snow but staying up flat with the foot. Eliminating as much frustration as possible at this stage is ideal.
After the "Tyker", the next two are more traditional snowshoe designs and have all the features of adult snowshoes just sized down to accommodate kids. The "Shift"(maximum weight 125 Lbs) and the "Evo"(maximum weight 180 Lbs) both work very well for kids of different weight ranges. The "Evo" has a unique feature of being able to add a tail onto the back of the snowshoe which increases soft snow performance and increases the weight range, to take most teens right into adulthood using the same snowshoe!
I hope this has helped and for more information, you can check out our website alloutkids.com and as always if you have a question please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you and get out and grow some adventures with your kids.