A lot of people have asked me how we got our kids to love snowshoeing at such an early age. We rarely snowshoe without all three of them in tow. People find it hard to believe that our 10-year-old still likes to go after all these years, our 3-year-old will go all day or that our 20-month-old is already snowshoeing. I have even had questions regarding how to find snowshoes for toddlers and kids.
Why You Should Snowshoe With Kids & Toddlers
For me, snowshoeing with my kids is a chance to spend time with them outside of the distractions of everyday life. No video games, phones, or computers. None of the day-to-day worries that take up so much of our time.
Snowshoeing with my kids and toddlers is also a time for me to instill in them a foundation for being physically active. Our children never get tired of trying to hide behind trees and scare us or making trails in different directions, trying to confuse us as to where they went.
Snowshoeing has quickly become an activity that we love to do together as a family. For me, that is priceless. We go all day and never hear any complaints. They know that if they need to stop, we will and that our number one rule while snowshoeing is to have fun. So, here I am handing out advice. I hope it leads you and your family to a lifelong love of snowshoeing.
Tips For Choosing The Right Snowshoe For Kids & Toddlers
I am by no means a professional. Furthermore, I am almost certain you could ask a dozen snowshoeing parents these questions only to receive a dozen different answers. My tips and advice merely come from years of trial and error. In fact, our oldest son has had to endure all of the mistakes we made over the years. You could say he was our little snowshoe guinea pig.
The first and most difficult decision you will have to make is choosing the right snowshoe for your child. There are a lot of good brands out there, and most offer a wide range of shoes covering all skill levels and ages. It can be a bit overwhelming when you first start looking for a snowshoe for your child or toddler. Luckily this doesn’t have to be as hard as it may seem.
1. Highest Price Isn’t Always The Best
If you remember only one thing from this article, let it be this: Avoid the idea that the highest-priced product means it is always the best quality or the most comfortable. There are many superior quality snowshoes out there that come with a surprisingly low price tag. Many of these lower-priced shoes come with lifetime warranties, which is always good when you have one or multiple children.
2. Keep The Snowshoe Simple
Try to keep the snowshoe simple without any fancy features that provide little to no function for a child. Let’s face it. You’re probably not going to be crossing any steep, dangerous, or ice-covered mountains with your child. Therefore, he or she doesn’t have to have a $200 pair of snowshoes with special ice cleats or traction features.
3. Avoid Using Poles With Toddlers
It is also wise to avoid poles while your child is learning to snowshoe. The use of poles can lead to tripping and serve as a distraction. They can be a great piece of equipment for adults and older youth. However, poles are, in my opinion, too much for a toddler to have to think about on the outing.
4. Don’t Buy Too Big Of A Snowshoe
Don’t shop with the mindset that you should buy a big snowshoe so they can grow into them. Snowshoes that are too big are extremely difficult to maneuver and can be painful to wear.
Most companies list a weight range, and I recommend that you choose a pair that puts your child in the middle of that range. For example, if your child weighs 40 lbs (18 kg), look for a snowshoe made for 30-50 pounds (14-23 kg) or even a 0-50 lb (0-23 kg) limit.
If you go with a shoe that puts your child at the top of the weight limit, you risk them not fitting more than a few weeks. We all know how quickly children grow. Similarly, never go with a snowshoe that has a lower limit than your child weighs. A lower limit makes it very difficult for the snowshoe to distribute the child’s weight evenly on the snow, which leaves them sinking.
5. Similar Snowshoes In Various Sizes
Look for a brand that offers similar snowshoes in various sizes. Learning to work new bindings can be difficult for a young child. Once you find snowshoes that fit and your child learns to operate them, it is helpful to be able to purchase the next size up without a whole new system to learn.
6. Call The Company For More Info
One of the most helpful steps to picking a great snowshoe is to call the company before you make the purchase. Even if you find a pair at a local sporting goods store, I suggest you call the manufacturer directly and speak with customer service.
Remember To Ask Questions
Ask questions about their warranty policy and any others that may affect your child individually. It is true you can get most, if not all, your questions answered at the location you purchase from or off the internet. However, the call to the manufacturer should be less about the information you get and more about the quality of customer service. I have actually called a company twice before to confirm the poor customer service I received from the first call was not just due to that specific representative having a bad day.
If the company isn’t willing to answer your simple questions or they are unfriendly before you buy, it can be safely assumed that after you purchase the product, service will remain poor. It is likely that if poor customer service exists and a problem occurs with the snowshoes, it will be challenging to get it resolved.
Call More Than Once
I also encourage you to call more than once, as I did, to ensure you are receiving the same information. Unfortunately, there have been times I have called and been told one thing. Then I found out later a different representative had different information. Call as many times as it takes to make you feel comfortable. Whatever company you choose to purchase from, you should be completely satisfied with them in ALL areas of the purchase.
Although many companies make a quality product at an affordable price, we find our personal favorite to be Yukon Charlie’s. Their one pull bindings are unbeatable for kids of all ages. Our oldest son’s snowshoes (which he wore for two years) have now been handed down to our middle son. He then wore them last year and will wear them again next year. They have held up so well that even our youngest child will be able to use them.
They show the usual scratches and scrapes you will find on any beginner’s snowshoes, but mechanically they are in fantastic shape. The bindings still function smoothly, and there is no damage to any of the rivets. The crampons are still going strong, and even the frame has no bends, bows, or cracks. Everyone in our family now wears Yukon Charlie’s, and we have never been let down. The company is fantastic to work with, and for me, nothing surpasses quality products with outstanding customer service.
7. Let Your Child Help Choose Their Snowshoe
Another tip to choosing the right snowshoe is to let your child help make the decision. You can either take them with you to the store or allow them to shop online with you. However, either way, they must play an active role in the purchase.
Even at a very young age, they can point to them, try them on and look at pictures of them. If they are old enough to pick a color, go ahead and let them choose (even if you don’t like their color selection). Show them the brand or brands that you have researched, then let them choose from that selection. They are more likely to want to wear them if they get to be a part of the purchase.
8. Be Timely With Your Purchase
Once you have decided on a brand of snowshoes, determined your child’s size range, and picked your color, it is time to make the purchase. Buy your snowshoes before the snow season starts. Depending on where you live, this may require you to order online but, the money you save on the off-season purchase will more than cover the cost of any shipping you have to pay.
Also, keep in mind that no matter what age your child is, learning to snowshoe will inevitably cause scratches on their snowshoes. It will mean they drag them everywhere when not strapped on their feet, and at some point, they will throw them in the car with no regard for the position of the crampons. All of this can wreak havoc on a pair of snowshoes and your nerves. However, knowing you got a great deal on a quality pair of snowshoes can help you to relax and let your child learn.
9. Try The Snowshoes On Early
Once your new snowshoes arrive, strap them on. Pull out the snow boots in the middle of summer. We have found our kids are most excited about their new snowshoes when they first open them, so take advantage of the new toy excitement. No one likes to get a gift in August and have to look at it until December without getting to play with it.
On a side note, do use caution. The crampons can be sharp and may cause problems, primarily if used to smash the hand of a sibling (trust me). Let your child wear their new snowshoes around the house. It is unlikely that a quality crampon will be damaged by a child trekking around on the carpet.
By trying the snowshoes on early, it is your chance to put them on your toddler or child and watch for any signs of discomfort. Most stores will accept the snowshoes as a return if not worn outside. You know your child better than anyone else, so use that parental instinct to identify if your purchase is right for your child.
10. Tackle Problems Early
If there is a problem, take notice of it right away. If you purchase in person, do not let a sales representative make you feel pressured into another brand you have not researched. Do not let them tell you your child will get used to the discomfort.
A few visible signs of discomfort may include:
- Pulling at one shoe more than the other
- Shaking their legs
- Trying to take them off while whining or crying.
Although wearing snowshoes for the first time may be awkward for a toddler, they should not hurt. If the problem persists, physically examine the snowshoe. Take a look at the bindings. If they are too tight or too loose, it can be a problem. Your child’s snow boots may also cause discomfort.
11. Boots Are Just As Important As Snowshoes
It is best to have a boot that laces up and can be secured firmly to the foot. Slip-on style boots can leave room for shifting or even slipping off with the weight of the snowshoe. Shifting or slipping can create pain, discomfort, or also cause the child to fall.
If inspecting the boot does not resolve the discomfort, it is my opinion you should return to your search. If you purchased online, take the necessary steps to return the snowshoes to the retailer. Or, if you are in the store, do take the time to try on the other brands. However, as I stated earlier, I highly recommend going home to research thoroughly any new brands you consider, without any pressure.
Tips For Your First Snowshoe Outing
When the first snow starts to fall, you should have a quality pair of snowshoes for a reasonable price. Plus, you’ll have a child who is comfortable in them after wearing them around the house for the last few months. It is now time to hit the trail!
Our kids loved learning in the fresh powder. Although the powder is not always the easiest to trek on, it is by far the softest to fall in. No matter how good your toddler or child has done around the house, be prepared for challenges outside. It is incredible to watch a child learn a new skill, so plan your first few trips around them.
Read More: 10 Tips For Making Snowshoeing Fun With Kids
1. Start Small
For your first trip, don’t expect to go any measurable distance. Our daughter’s first trip was about an hour. We made it all of 200 yards. She spent the majority of the time stopping to point at her snowshoes, saying, “see cute.” It was imperative to her that we all saw every flake of snow that touched her new purple shoes. Although mastering the technique may not be a challenge for your child, overcoming the excitement of walking on snow may slow down your trip.
It’s also important to start small because pushing your little learner too hard will only cause a loss of interest in the activity. Although you have to use your judgment, we usually try to shoot for a first snowshoeing destination of no more than 0.5 miles (0.8 km) in each direction. Then, stop halfway up and build a snowman to knock it down on the way back.
Stopping halfway breaks up the trip into little distances and gives the child something to look forward to in both directions. On the way back, when our kids see the little snowman in the distance, it usually gives them a second wind and inspires an impromptu race to the goal.
2. Set A Goal Destination
After you have provided adequate time for your toddler or child to get acquainted with snowshoeing, it is time to set a goal destination. Every child is different, and the time it takes them to reach this goal will vary. Our kids were ready for this step after about three small outings.
Choose a destination that has something appealing to a child. For example, a trail with a bridge is always an appealing destination since most kids enjoy throwing rocks or snowballs into the water or at the ice if it is frozen. However, do not overdo it. If your child tires before you reach the destination, make sure to stop, even if it is just for a break, a snack, or lunch.
3. Take A Snowshoeing Trip Just To Explore
Once you have mastered a couple of destination trips, take a trip or two to nowhere. Since snowshoes leave distinct tracks wherever kids go, losing them is near impossible. Plus, being able to explore only helps to build their abilities. Our children love just trekking. We look for all kinds of treasures and animal tracks.
However, be careful with distance on exploration trips. It always seems easy to walk away, but it doesn’t take long to travel farther than you should have gone. If you go too far, having to go back for a long distance can be a real challenge for kids.
4. Watch For Signs Of Tiring
When you’re out snowshoeing, it’s essential to watch for signs that your toddler or child is tiring. I always look for signs. For example, I watch to see if they stop running from place to place or if they begin to walk in a straight line instead of swerving in a curvy playful way. My middle son always started out wanting to be the leader, and inevitably as he became tired, he moved behind me. This behavior was always a red flag that it was time to break and turn around. You can always head in another direction if you get back to your starting point, and the kids still have energy.
Go Out & Have Fun Snowshoeing With Your Kids and Toddlers!
Once you have purchased quality snowshoes, played in them around the house, and ventured out to play in fresh powder, your child will be hooked for a lifetime. The opportunity to play, relax, and be physically active will be something the whole family can look forward to regularly. If you choose to introduce your child to snowshoeing, you give them a chance to create a lifelong love of the outdoors.
For more ideas for planning a family snow trip, visit The Family Travel Files.
Have you taken your toddler or older child snowshoeing? What tips or recommendations have helped you in the process?
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