Tuesday, May 26, 2015

12 items that will make your beach-time better

Summer time is coming closer every day in my part of the world, and for my family, summer usually means a lot of time at the beach. Here are 12 items that can help time spent at the beach, a little better and more comfortable.

1. Rashguard shirts and sun-safe baby suits
While wearing sunscreen is important, clothing protects your child even better. A good rashguard shirt makes your life a lot easier at the beach, and you won't have to worry so much about sunburned shoulders and arms when your kids are playing at the beach. A one-piece sun suit for your baby is also a great idea.

2. A pair of beach shoes
A pair of thin, flexible shoes that can be worn in the water are also a great idea for the beach. They protect feet and toes from sharp rocks and hot sand.

3. A water-proof phone case
Sand and water, sunscreen and messy snacks... there are a lot of things that can make a mess of your cellphone at the beach. A water proof case or pouch is a great idea to help protect your phone or other electronic device.

4. A sand-free bag for toys
Carrying your children's supply of buckets, shovels, and other beach-toys can get pretty sandy and messy, but a mesh bag makes the chore a little easier. Leaving the sand at the beach is just a lot better than bringing it all into your car!

5. Beach towel stakes
Towel stakes can help keep your blanket or towel in place at the beach. If you've tried in vain to pin a towel down with rocks, shoes, and assorted other objects, you'll appreciate this item!

6. A dry-bag for wet stuff
Keeping your wet gear separate from your dry clothes can be a challenge when you're packing all your stuff up at the beach. A regular plastic bag can come in handy, but a reusable dry-bag is also a great option.

7. Some handy snack cups
Snack cups are great for bringing snacks along, and for kids to eat from with less chance of a spill or mess. A good lid, and grip-friendly container can make your life a lot easier at the beach and elsewhere.

8. A good water bottle or two
Staying hydrated is important in the sun and heat, and a good water bottle makes it easier to bring water along. It also helps avoid buying bottled water: the less we do that, the better, in my opinion!

9. A sun-smart tent
Babies and toddlers can get too hot, and too sun-exposed rather quickly. A small tent or cabana can help give them some shade, and keep them cooler on a hot, sunny day. They also provide a safe spot for babies and young kids to nap.

10. A beach blanket
A sturdy blanket that is easy to bring along is a must if you're headed to the beach, or out for a picnic. The ones that roll up and come with a carrying strap or bag are especially practical.
mini umbrella

11. Sunscreen
You can't go to the beach without sun screen! Pick a kind that your kids are OK with: my kids are both rather sensitive to both the smell and texture of sunscreen. Waterproof, fragrance free, and something that isn't too thick and difficult to apply evenly is a must. For the beach, a non-sticky sunscreen that won't make all the sand stick to your skin, might be a good idea.

12. A waterproof wallet or pouch
When you're at the beach, it really helps to have a small waterproof wallet or pouch to keep important stuff like your driver's license, money, credit cards, etc. safe from sand and water.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hiking with kids in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, North Vancouver

Hiking with my kids is one of the most fun family activities we do. The kids love it, I love it, my husband loves it, and since we got our dog last year: the dog loves it, too.

Living just outside Vancouver on Canada's west coast means we have some spectacular mountains and forests, and parks that are just made for hiking and walking. One of our favourite places to go is on the North Shore, in North Vancouver's Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.

This place has some fantastic variety when it comes to trails. Our go-to trail with the kids and the dog is the lower trail along the river. This is the Lynn Loop/Cedar's Mill trail, and it is a wide, almost entirely flat trail that follows the river. It's very easy to walk: you can bring a stroller here without any problems, for example.

There's plenty of scenery: swirling green river water, giant trees, skunk cabbage, berry bushes and flowers, and all sorts of dogs running around. This part of the trail is leash-optional, and it's a popular place for dogs and people alike. There's easy access to the river in many places, so you can go check out the freezy cold waters on a hot day: our dog loves going for a dip in the water!

On the upper part of the Lynn Loop trail.
This past weekend we went for the full Lynn Loop trail for the first time in a while. For us, this involves starting things off with a steeper, rougher climb up into the higher forest area, eventually coming back down to the river using several sets of wooden stairs and snaking trails in the steep mountain side, and then returning to the exit and parking lot via the trail along the river. It's not a super tough hike for the kids, but that first climb can be a bit hard on kids' and grownup's legs, and the steep descent can also be a little challenging for small kids (or those nervous about slipping and falling).

Can't beat the forest scenery up here!
The trail is gorgeous throughout, and well kept. If you feel really adventurous you can head out on some of the more challenging side trails, like the one heading up to Lynn Peak, or keep going all the way to Norvan Falls. Norvan Falls is a rather long hike and can be rough depending on the weather and time of year, so make sure you have enough time to return safely before dark!

Up close and personal with an old log.
Both the easy trail along the river and the slightly more challenging, full Lynn Loop trail are fantastic to do with kids. They make for a grand day out with lots of fresh air, beautiful trees, and fun things to see in the woods, on and off the trail.

For more information about Lynn Headwaters Regional Park and the trails, check out:
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