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Travel Tip For Today

Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of sandals or Tevas. Before you leave home, break in your new shoes so you're not uncomfortable on the road.

Putting it all Together: Part 3

Traveling with kids

The following article is excerpted from "Adventuring with Children," a how-to book for outdoor families written by Nan Jeffrey and published by Foghorn Press/Avalon House. It is available by calling 1-800-FOGHORN.

Other Foghorn Press books of interest include "Best Places to Go", a worldwide family destination guide and "The Camper's Companion", a how-to book for beginning and advanced campers.

CHILDREN'S TRAVEL FEARS

Not all children react to travel with enthusiasm and the diplomatic aplomb of a Shirley Temple. Some are beset with fear at any slight change in their environment: fear of strangers, of sleeping in a tent, of different foods, fear of heights, of a boat's tippy motion or the close proximity of water. Even in the same family, one child might be intrepid and daring, another terror-struck at each new unknown.

As travel is full of changes, helping fearful children gain confidence and learn to feel comfortable is important. Fortunately, much of this happens naturally as children travel. The more adventuring experience they have, the more relaxed they become. The thing to remember with any of these childish fears is that they are natural and quite common. Forcing a child into a situation that scares him without providing any understanding help will only perpetuate the problem.

By using the following tricks, or others you devise yourselves to make children feel comfortable, their fears will gradually disappear of their own accord. As Colin remarked one day while watching families on the beach with young children: "Why do parents always try to get their kids to go in the water? Why don't they just let them play on the beach where they're happy?" It's a lesson we parents could all learn from, allowing our children to expand their horizons at a pace they feel comfortable with.

STRANGERS

Hardly anyone enjoys being stared at by strangers, including children. The more unusual your destination, the more attention your young will attract. As blonde twins, Tristan and Colin have endured everything from blatant stares to ritual head-touching, culminating in the time a particularly brave Moroccan boy rushed up and kissed Colin on the mouth. For shy children, all this attention can be terrifying.

If you have a baby that doesn't like being passed from lap to lap, carry him out of reach in a backpack. Let shy children stay close and cling to you during this early adjustment period. Don't be irritated by their clinging to you, or embarrassed by their apparent lack of social graces. They'll branch out on their own soon enough as they gain confidence. Experienced traveling families all agree that children who travel become outgoing, even at a very early age.

STRANGE FOODS

For children who react with horror at the mere appearance of some new kind of food on their plate, play it safe with familiar items until their natural curiosity takes over. Just about everywhere in the world has basic ingredients like eggs, milk, bread, noodles, rice, potatoes, meat and fruit. As most types of adventuring mean you will be doing your own cooking most of the time, serving children the simple foods they are used to shouldn't be difficult. Don't bother insisting they try just one bite of something new. If their mind is already set against it, they certainly won't admit to liking something even if they do. After a while, watching you gobble down foreign foods with obvious relish will prove too much for them and they will give it a try, figuring if grownups like it, it must be something special.

CAMPING

Some children are afraid to sleep in a tent. As no parent's idea of a good time is sleeping nightly with one or two children between you, don't even think about resorting to this solution to overcome their nervousness. If possible, give children their own tent, something they can develop a feeling of proprietorship for, similar to their bedroom at home. Make it look homey with sleeping bags spread out, sleepy friends, special pillows, toys, books and their own packs and clothes. Pitch the two tents very close together with the children's directly facing yours. Spread mats out on the ground between the tent, forming a nice, cozy play area. Then have the children sleep with their heads by the door where they can easily see you through the netting. Putting them to bed early while you still have a light on in your own tent helps. For early morning wakers, have books and toys ready for quiet playtime in their tent. If you only have one tent, let the children take turns being the one who gets to sleep next to a parent. The same early morning technique works just as well in one tent as two if you are firm about not letting them wake you or make a lot of noise.

HIKING

Children are sometimes initially scared of heights `when` introduced to hiking. I can remember one of our first hikes when both Tristan and Colin literally crawled up parts of the trail on all fours. Trails that are above treeline are particularly alarming because children can see the long drops. Let frightened ones hold your hand and walk on the inside of the path as much as they want. A hiking stick also helps them feel more secure. Let them know that crawling up something or sliding down on their bottoms is perfectly acceptable hiking etiquette. This phase usually doesn't last long as most children have an affinity for climbing up things.

SAILING

A boat's sudden tendency to heel and bounce around takes getting used to for anyone. Some children become scared each time the boat tips, a tedious business if you are also trying to steer and handle sails. Find or make a place where they feel comfortable, a cushioned corner of the cockpit or cozy area below. Make it into a comfortable area they can snuggle down in with a book or some toys, even take a nap. Position them somewhere out of the way so they won't have to get up and move just when something tense happens. With a secure "nest" of their own, they will gradually relax about sailing and begin enjoying it.

BICYCLING

Riding in a bicycle trailer might seem like a scary proposition at first, especially if the child is alone and facing backwards. Settle him with the usual arsenal of treats and toys, make the seat especially cozy with a favored blanket and pillow, then have one parent bicycle right behind the trailer where the child can see and talk to you. For children afraid of bicycling on their own, ride on the outside alongside and just slightly behind them until they feel comfortable. This will give approaching cars the room to pass you safely while still helping each child protected by your presence.

CANOEING

Sitting in a tippy-feeling boat inches from the water can be unsettling to a child afraid of swimming. Seat the child facing backwards within reach of the parent paddling in the stern. This allows him to see your face and easily carry on a conversation. Give him his own paddle and something to tow over the side to make him feel more comfortable about the close presence of water.

[This is just one chapter from this very helpful and easy-to-read book. See the head of the file for ordering information.]

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