Baby Steps: Tips for Fun Outside with an Infant

NWF caught up with Jennifer Aist, author of Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping, Boating with Babies and Young Children, to get some tips for enjoying outdoor adventures with the youngest members of your family.

Babes_in_woods_180x252Q: What inspired you to write Babes in the Woods?

A: The inspiration came from a melding of two of my passions: babies and wild spaces. I knew that getting the two together would be a perfect match. I also knew that today’s parents needed a little bit of help to get them started, thus Babes in the Woods was born!

Q: Can you offer tips on how to protect baby from mosquitoes, ticks, and other pesky bugs?

A: Let’s face it, bugs are a hassle and no one wants to think about them biting our kids. There are some very simple and effective ways to keep them at bay. My favorite technique is bug netting. I tell parents to buy the biggest size they can find. Most “big box” stores carry it in the stroller isle. The netting can be put over strollers, swings, backpacks, front packs—virtually anything your baby is going to hang out in. This chemical-free method keeps all bugs and flying things away from baby. Older tots can wear bug netting shirts. If parents really need to spray something on their kids, I recommend natural products or low-dose DEET or Picaridin. Any natural or chemical product should be washed off your little one every day.

Q: Shouldn’t babies be kept out of the sun?

A: Baby’s tender skin needs protecting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go in the sun at all. Just be sun smart! Pay attention to the UV index for the day. And remember the 5 ‘S’s:

  • Slip on some protective clothing (long-sleeved, loose, tightly woven top).
  • Slop on some sunscreen (check with the pediatrician first for infants under 6 months).
  • Slap on a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Seek shade where possible (an umbrella can provide shade on the go).
  • Slide on some quality sunglasses.

Q: How do you make sure a baby is warm enough outside?

A: Use the same techniques you use inside to determine your baby’s comfort. I often will stick my hand under the baby’s shirt to feel if the chest is warm. Don’t just feel the cheeks—on a cool to cold day, these will feel cool to your touch no matter what. Feel your baby’s core body—his or her chest. Layering your baby’s clothing will help him feel nice and cozy on the trail or at camp.

Q: What words of encouragement can you give to a new mom who is hesitant to take her baby outside?

A: Anyone—any shape, age, size or experience—can and should enjoy our nation’s beautiful parks.  If you are hesitant to hit the trails alone, bring along some friends and their kids. Set a goal to do one walk every week this summer. You and your baby will be glad you did.

Educator Jennifer Aist teaches parenting classes on everything from breastfeeding to backpacking, and is author of Babes in the Woods. A search-and-rescue volunteer and Alaska Fish & Wildlife outdoor education consultant, she lives in Anchorage with her husband and four children. Find out more at