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Lessons on the Water

Lessons learned on the water – what a trip on the river can teach your kids
By Emma Southern

A good quality ‘outdoor education’ is helpful in bringing up balanced, well rounded kids, aware of the environment around them, able to understand first hand the importance of cooperation and teamwork, and with healthy habits that carry them into adulthood. Time on the water with your family, in kayaks, rafts, or any of our other suitable crafts, can be a great way to start or build upon your children’s introduction to the lessons that can be learned out of doors.  

Understand our environment

Seeing the local environment from the water, particularly in a kayak or raft, allows families to get really up close and personal with our native species. Appreciating the wilderness and the wildness of our countryside breeds a respect for the land and the ecosystems we share it with. The silent and environmentally low impact means of exploring means you can watch the world drift by at your own pace, really taking in everything you see. An appropriate wildlife guide book can help families identify the species spotted, and can provide some interesting reading in advance of a trip on the water. On your trip here on the Pere Marquette National Scenic River, you may see rainbow trout, salmon and cray fish, and well as species of frog such as western chorus frog and northern leopard frog. Various species of snake, and common snapping turtles can also be seen in our river.

Time on the water is also a good time to talk about environmental messages with children, firstly explaining the rules of the waterways and forests, and ensuring children understand the importance of leaving nature undisturbed, and removing all trash and other signs of human presence. Secondly, the habitats in which you paddle can be used to examine ecosystems and talk about the impact of humans on the areas which we inhabit – seeing the beauty of nature whilst talking about the need to preserve it for future generations is certainly more impactful than learning this in the classroom!

Healthy lifestyle habits

One of the most important lessons you can teach your kids for their long term well being, is the value of exercise and being outdoors. With kids in the US spending up to seven hours a day in front of screens, including three hours of TV, the ‘ticking time bomb’ of obesity, diabetes and other related conditions, is well documented. The fact is that kids who exercise moderately on a regular basis are healthier in the short, medium and long term, both in terms of physical and mental health.

 Immediate gains in flexibility and strength, added to the medium impacts associated with maintaining a healthy weight, add up to longer term benefits like a degree of protection against conditions such as diabetes and cancer. By having an active vacation taking in moderate exercise as part of the enjoyment of the trip, you are teaching your kids that being active and moving more is fun – an important step in establishing healthy attitudes to exercise for the longer term.

 The added benefit of exercising out of doors, in the beauty of our natural environment, is the mental well being from taking time to really stop and appreciate the wonder of our planet. Paddling can have a meditative quality, and the relaxation found in quietly enjoying leisure time in the presence of our family can be a benefit in itself. 

 Prepare for all eventualities

The responsibility of being on the water is also good for kids, who have to learn to be responsible for themselves, and others as they paddle. Before taking to the water, children should understand the safety equipment they need to use, such as life vests, and also how to behave sensibly to protect themselves and others in your party. This sense of responsibility can help kids learn to manage their own behavior, and educate them about both the beauty and power of nature.

Canoeing trips encourage children to think about different scenarios, packing appropriate clothing and equipment, and being respectful of the weather and tidal conditions. This level of awareness and advance planning stands children in good stead in their adult lives.

Planning your trip with us

If you are planning a trip on the water with us, don’t forget to pack any recommended performance clothes and any essential kit needed for your particular itinerary. Another additional consideration should be checking your insurance cover before departing, to ensure it covers your trip and any new kit you invest in – this can help to make sure the only things you need to think about during your trip are enjoyable ones. We also recommend checking out the likely weather for your trip, so you can pack accordingly. Kayaking and rafting are all weather activities, and having the right equipment means there is no such thing as bad weather! A relatively small amount of advance planning is all you need to ensure that the memories are all good ones!

 By being well prepared, and making the most of the learning there is to be had in the ‘outdoor classroom’, you will be sure to have both an enjoyable and an educational experience in the water.

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Baldwin Canoe Rental strives to maintain top quality equipment at all times. We are known for our quality service and equipment. Each year we sell a number of used canoes and kayaks, and replace them with new ones to keep our fleet of rental equipment up to date. We have enough Old Town canoes in stock, (the most requested canoe) to be able to supply most requests on weekends. All of our Watercraft are inspected by the State of Michigan each year and are maintained in the highest quality.