28 Feb 2024

How to go tramping with young children

From Afternoons, 1:53 pm on 28 February 2024
Shoshannah Shand

Shoshannah Shand Photo: Supplied

When Canterbury photographer  Shoshannah Shand goes tramping, she usually has her five-year-old son and 9-month-old daughter in tow.

"I keep thinking, well, if I didn't go with them I'd be like 'Oh, you're missing out on all these cool things," she tells Jesse Mulligan.

Shoshannah Shand shares tips and inspiration for outdoor adventures with kids on Instagram.

A good age to start kids tramping is the question that fellow parents most frequently ask Shand on social media.

Although she says most people hold off until their kids are six or seven – "because that's when it gets a lot easier" – she didn't want to wait that long and started taking her five-year-old on day walks as an 18-month-old.

Until the age of four, he was carried the whole way in a baby carrier, Shand says. Now, although he can comfortably walk 10kms-a-day, he still sometimes gets a ride.

"My kids live in the baby carrier. I carry them everywhere. I carry them at home... I find that's especially helpful because it kind of helps you build up your strength, carrying them around while you're gardening and stuff."

Although she has now taken her kids on multi-day tramps, Shand says she began slowly with short walks then built up.

"You don't need all the fancy big expensive gear, especially when you're starting. [It's just a case of] finding some running shoes and putting the baby in a backpack."

Tramping with nappies is something Shand has "stressed over" a lot. While cloth nappies are bigger and bulkier than disposable ones, she finds them more practical as they can be washed and reused.

Also helpful for toileting in the wild is the EC (elimination communication) method Shand uses.

"I go with their natural cues to go to the toilet. My baby is nine months old now. And she hardly ever soils a nappy because she catches everything on the toilet ... That's a big help for tramping because I follow her natural cues and then take her to the toilet when she says she needs to go."

Out in the hills, snacks are a hugely important motivator for both parents and kids, she says.

"I'm very food-motivated so when I'm going camping I'm always thinking of what food I can take. It's a time when I bring out all the special stuff that we don't have at home.

"I'll go to the supermarket and I'll let [my son] choose lollies or anything like that, anything that he wants to carry in his pack, and then he gets to eat that on the trip.

"When he was about two to three, we'd have quite a few walks and I would take marshmallows and just kind of drip-feed them to him every few metres down the track when he wasn't feeling motivated, and that really helped a lot."

While Shand wants her kids to enjoy tramping as a break from the busyness of life, she also sees it as an opportunity to teach them endurance and that sometimes life isn't easy and you've just gotta keep pushing on.

"I just enjoy it so much that taking the kids along, well, it is extra effort but the reward is greater."