Dr. Aaron Provance shares his advice to ensure a fun time is had by all

Dr. Aaron Provance understands the need to get kids outside. In addition to being Medical Director of Pediatric Sports Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Colorado, he’s a seasoned outdoorsman and big advocate for getting kids into nature. He’s also a father of three-year-old triplets, so he’s realistic about what that entails.

 

SIDEBAR

Every great adventure requires a thorough packing list.

You’ll want these essentials for your mountain excursions:

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Lots of water
  • Snacks
  • Up-to-date first-aid kit
  • Extra clothing
  • Gloves and hats
  • Map or GPS device
  • Cell phone
  • Fire starter

Hiking  

By age: “Hiking is something you can do with really young kids,” says Provance. “Just know your limitations.” Gauge the distance you’ll be walking by a realistic sense of how far your kids can walk without burning out—keeping in mind that for most hikes, you’ll need to double the distance for the way out.

Staying safe: At lower altitudes, prepare for the risks of dehydration and heat exhaustion. At higher altitudes, be prepared for all weather. “You could have a snow storm in August in Rocky Mountain National Park…suddenly you’re dealing with the possibility of hypothermia.”

Prepare: Bring jackets, hats and gloves, even if it’s warm when you leave the house. “And if you don’t have snacks and water,” says Provance, “you’re doomed.” Bring more than you think you’ll need.

Word to the wise: Pacing is everything. Kids might get excited and want to run it out at first. Slow them down, and be willing to slow down for them: let them dawdle, rest and stop to look at interesting stuff. 

Fishing

 

By age: Fishing is safe and fun for kids of almost any age—as soon as they can handle a pole (and mind the hook).

Staying safe: “The main risk would be getting into a stream that’s too swift or too deep,” says Provance. “Especially if they’re wearing waders, which can fill with water, increasing the risk of drowning.” For younger kids, it’s probably best to stick to mountain lakes and calm streams.

Word to the wise: Fishing is a great opportunity to teach kids about the ethics of catch-and release—and of the mountains themselves.

 

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Rock climbing

By age: “If parents are avid climbers and can set up a safe anchor system in a beginner area, some parents will start kids climbing at 3 to 5 years old,” says Dr. Provance. Obviously, that’s not for everybody. Because climbing requires a significant amount of technical knowledge and skill, parents’ preparation is probably more important than the age of the kids.

Staying safe: Most important is to have an actual climbing helmet, not a bike helmet or any other kind. A climbing helmet is specifically designed to absorb the impact of falling rock.

Prepare: Rock climbing is equipment-intensive, so parents who don’t own it already might want to test the waters before they invest. Indoor climbing gyms offer a great place for climbers to build skill in a safe, equipped environment, without the threat of a rock fall or changing weather. Many offer classes.