It’s early Sunday morning, and I’m sitting in my cozy office listening to Vivaldi, sipping my coffee, and glorying in the fact that I live in a place where I can engage my kids in the absolutely wonderous outdoors right, well, out our door. Yes, we can.
The statistics talk of “nature deficit disorder” afflicting today’s children; overscheduling, computers, safety, all issues that are keeping kids, and subsequently their parents, inside and away from Nature. There’s another reason though, why some moms and dads resist the temptation to venture further from the neighborhood playground with their littlest ones. They don’t have the toolbox of information to feel they can do so safely.
We’ve all been there; after all, parenting itself is full of unknowns and ambiguities like no other job, and unfortunately the results of not knowing can and do become disasterous. How many trips into the wilderness does it take before we realize that cotton is bad and polypro is good? How do we suck up the cost of a child-sized sleeping bag before realizing that it truly can be a precious investment for our own precious cargo? How do we gird our parental loins and just.do.it., despite feeling like an idiot for schlepping everything but the kitchen sink in our backpacks?
“Babes in the Woods”, by Jennifer Aist and published by the well-known Mountaineers Books of Seattle, finally addresses these and other important issues in her recently released book. Aist, a lactation specialist for Providence Medical Center in Anchorage and an outdoor educator, enthusiast, and guru for kids in the outdoors (really, she has quite a following up here), is also a parent of four kids. Truly able to “be there and do that”, Aist’s advice in the book is based upon her own experiences, and is chock-full of sound techniques and practices to help parents of children birth through preschool to feel in charge of their outdoor destiny.
Clothing, transportation across the trails and tracks, day trips, overnighters, and some campsite fun are all addressed, as well as the practical ideas behind them. Even food takes center stage for a bit, with a great campfire analogy of carbs, sugars, fats, and the like in an effort to show parents how crucial eating can be in the outdoors. Aist also provides (thank goodness) a sample menu of tried and true recipes for the trail or campsite, something this mac n’ cheese and Kool-Aid generation mom appreciates.
Aist’s titlte subs with “Hiking, Camping, and Boating with Babies and Young Children” and she delivers on this with further explanation and experiences for readers. Yes, one can take an infant camping, in a tent, in Alaska, with all manner of animals, temperature changes, and trail mileage. Yes, a family can go on a canoe trip safely with a toddler. Yes, yes, yes.
The best part? I love the resource guides and checklists in the back of the book. Even after 40-some years spent in every forest from Oregon to Montana and now Alaska, I find that parents can never have too much information about new places, people, and stuff. I am a checklist fan, so if someone else makes it I’ll gladly give it a go.
Children and Nature Network calls “Babes” a treasure. Treasures are things you found that are incredibly valuable and sustaining. Yep, that about sums it up. I predict many a family will be harboring this book, using it until it’s dog-eared from use and stained with coffee, breast milk, and or the teeth marks of one baby after another.
Don’t pass this one by. Providence gift shop has the book, and Aist has copies at her classes. Click on her website above and get yourself a copy. It is also available on Amazon