Before Eilidh, I had a pretty wild life. Wild in many ways but laterally wild in the literal sense – out in the mountains every weekend, out in the country and parks every single day of the week. Running, cycling, walking, swimming. I couldn’t sit still and I couldn’t pass up on any mini adventures whatever day of the week it was. I thought nothing of making a 10-hour round trip up north, leaving at 4am on a Saturday, and I had an Instagram-worthy life.
I assumed that would carry on when I had Eilidh. And honestly, if pregnancy hadn’t rendered me so immobile for 3 years I think I’d have had many more adventures to tell you about.
However, we do still get outside every day and we make time for day and weekend trips to our favourite places – Perthshire, Glencoe, the Trossachs and the islands.
We have a puppy who can’t walk miles yet and a toddler who is as wild and independent as the puppy (and me ). We take some incredible trips, carrying Eilidh or taking our off-road buggy, because my mental health would suffer immeasurably if we stopped. I think nothing of taking Eilidh and the dog to Loch Ard, an hour away, for an hour-long walk on an afternoon off, her dinner a sandwich in the car home. But it’s not all fun and games and Instagram pictures, as you’d imagine.
Firstly let me start by admitting I don’t have teenagers. I have no idea what to expect with THAT minefield so this blog is purely aimed at those of you with wee kiddies. If you have teenagers and handy tips, let us know!
Secondly, I need you to understand one very important fact (and I’m guessing you know it very well already): kids are really fecking hard work. When they are babies they scream all the time, when they are toddlers they strop all the time and get tired. When they are 5 they want to do their own thing (I think – we’re not there yet).
But you can still go out and enjoy Scotland’s epic playground without wanting to jump off a cliff. Ok honestly you might still want to do that but I would argue that I’d want to do that if I stayed in, so I may as well have those feelings in beautiful surroundings.
I’m pretty sure most kids just want two things:
- Time with you.
So that leads me on to my top tips for exploring and adventuring with kids.
- Food. I’m lucky my child is a hoover but it has its disadvantages – I want her to have a healthy relationship with food and avoid giving her too much crap and letting her constantly snack. So I make sure I have lots of low-sugar, low-fat time-consuming foods to eat: vegetable sticks, corn cakes, apples, raisins etc. As well as a good packed lunch and water bottles. If you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding still even better – just have a seat, get your boobs out and voila! I have fed Eilidh in so many weird and wonderful places – munroes in the snow, loch shores, car parks , beaches, forests, benches by reservoirs in the howling wind and rain. As long as they’re fed they’re happy. And accept that if you want a nice time you might just need to indulge them with snacks that little bit more than usual.
- Invest in a good carrier. We had a Baby Bjorn 1 when she was little, with a UV cover for sunny days and holidays, and awarm and waterproof cover for winter dog walks and, well, Scotland in general. We now have an Osprey backpack with a stand that means you can take them off when they are asleep and they don’t wake up! Bliss! It also had a rain cover and UV shade. Just don’t drop them off a bench when they are strapped in it or you’ll end up at the doctors being questioned about the state of your toddler’s face and YES SHE HAD ALSO DONE A POO AND YES I DRANK WINE AFTER.
- Don’t underestimate the cold, especially when they are small enough to be carried. They get super cold at the top of Ben Lomond even in summer, believe me. We have a good snow suit and lots of layers, spare clothes and of course, in summer, midge repellent.
- Make time. If you’d normally expect to climb Ben A’an in 3 hours, factor in 6. Sadly for schedule-loving control-freaks like myself, kids tend to want to do their own thing. There’s also a wealth of research that proves just how incredibly beneficial unstructured play in nature is for children’s development. Yes it’s a sacrifice but wouldn’t you rather that than sitting at home all day? I make sure we have plenty of time to get anywhere and that I know the route we’re taking, how long it should take me as an adult, and then I add another 3 hours!
- Don’t worry about weather – prepare for Scotland. It could do anything. If we stayed in every time it rained we’d never do anything. Just use it as a good reason to find a nice cafe or pub later for a hot chocolate or babycinno.
- Expect meltdowns. Eilidh has a number of meltdowns every day. She’s 2.5. It’s to be expected. Sometimes when me and Chris are getting ready to go off exploring we question the decision when she’s screaming about her wellies being wrong and wanting to watch Pingu. But as I said before, she’d be having tantrums wherever we were so I’d rather be playing in the mud with a nice view than stuck in the house.
- Don’t be afraid. I do think fear of meltdowns, strops, getting out of the routine, nappies, potty training etc is what stops us going out and having adventures more often. So you have a mountain of washing to do? So what? Do it later. So your kid has the cold – take tissues, warm clothes and don’t go as far as your would normally (they might even nap!!). They’re bored and crying? Well can you distract them? Feed them? Make them laugh? Is it so bad that you have to go home early? That’s ok if it is! We’ve all been there. But you tried right, and you can try again. Life isn’t perfect when you have kids but it’s fun. And it’s pretty cool to see the world from their eyes again. Eilidh loves trees, she loves climbing and touching and running and jumping and it makes me stop and appreciate it more, instead of my usual race to the summit.
Finally, don’t forget to schedule in some adventure time alone. Every year Chris asks me what I want for my birthday and every year I say the same thing: “get up at 4am, drive north, climb mountains, no kids”. Perfect!
If you’d like to hear more from our coaches then follow us on Facebook.