How to Keep Your Kid Safe on the Water: 9 River Float Tips

Today I welcome Dave from Camping Stove Cookout to the blog. He has been leading river trips for years and I am excited to be able to share his tips for keeping your kids safe on floating trips. Please head over and check out his blog, he has a ton of good information about camping and outdoor adventures. He is also offering my readers a free copy of his camping guide for beginners, more information at the bottom of the post. 

If you plan on camping near water or going on a whitewater rafting trip, here are a few tips to help make it safe.  When will your child be ready for a rafting trip?  I was 5 years old when I went on my first river camping trip, and have pretty much been addicted to the river ever since.
9 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on River Trips

So, I get how special it is to get kids out there at a young age and the beauty of them developing a love for being on the river.  

Water safety is especially important to me because I have 2 little girls who are 4 months and 2 ½ years old.  If you have kids of your own and are interested in taking them down the river, you should be asking yourself some of the questions I have listed below.

I want you to get out with your family on the water because it’s awesome.  But I also want you to stay safe along the way and I provide a foundation here to make sure you are ready for the River.

9 River Float Preparation Tips (Questions)

1. Are my kids good swimmers?

I’m not a great swimmer to this day.  I was taught by my grandmother, bless her heart, but never learned any really good swimming skills.  My skills are good enough now that I feel comfortable and safe, and can react directly if needed.  I guest posted on this site describing a dangerous river experience where I had to react quickly.

My kids are completing a serious swimming course before they are in a situation like the one I describe in the link above.  Getting your kids into a swimming course early will help you feel more comfortable to get out on the water.  This site has some information to get you started and links to other online swimming resources.

2. Do I have the best gear?

A good life jacket, throw ropes, and extra flotation on the boat is a requirement.  A high quality life jacket will float your child even if they become unconscious so make sure you have a good PFD.  I have always purchased my water gear from NRS, and have always been super satisfied with their service.  

Some of their gear may cost a little more but you will love it because of the quality.   Take a look at this link for a few good life jacket examples for kids.  If you need a full gear list for your next trip this is the one I use.
9 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on River Trips

3. Have I started them out on an “Easy Section”?

Try getting out on some flat water for your first trip to get a feel for the boat and to allow your kids to adjust.  We took our oldest daughter out in the boat when she was four months old. But, we were on a lake where I felt much more comfortable.  

Make sure all of your gear fits well and you have your safety equipment ready before you put in for your river trip.  Test out the throw rope to make sure you know how to use if before you get in that situation.  If you are planning a canoe trip this site has a good essential gear list.

4. Do I know this section like a Pro?

Find a great river book for your water body of choice.  We have a great book where I live called Soggy Sneakers that covers the different routes down many of the major rivers in the state.  If you are unsure where to find a good guide book just Google it.   Type [your state] + “river trips” and it should give you some good resources.  If not, send me an email at dave@campingstovecookout.com and I will help you find a good resource.

Start on your home water in a section that you could do blindfolded.  If you don’t have a home river, find a river guide or friend to lead the float.  Make sure the boat is lighter with less gear than normal and you are at 100% physically.  One thing I have learned over the years is that it doesn't take much to make that little mistake that really puts you in a bad spot.
9 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on River Trips

5. Have I prepared for the worst scenario?

Along with the previous topic on being totally knowledgeable, be prepared for the worst case scenario as well.  Think through all of the different failure points and have a plan B if it happens.  What happens if we swim on this one?  Are the ropes all tied in so nobody gets caught if we flip?  Do my kids have a helmet on if needed for this section?  Take a look at this article for additional general river trip tips.

6. Have we practiced body floating?

A good way to get your kids comfortable is to put on the life jackets and practice body floating through small rapids on the river.  Or just out in a lake or pool to get comfortable with the jacket.  This is a good chance to get your kid comfortable being in the water just in case they are forced to swim at some point down the line.

Kick your feet out in front, keep your butt down and relax.  Breathing and relaxing is a critical piece to be thinking about as you practice floating through small rapids.  The temperature of the water can be a shock and it’s important at this initial stage to try and relax.  

You should take breaths as you float to the top of the wave and hold your breath as you drop into the trough.  The first 2 minutes of this video demonstrate the proper swimming strategy if you find yourself in the river.

7. Do we have a second boat?

You should always build multiple layers of safety into your trips.   One extra safety layer is to follow a second boat down the river if that person is more experienced. You can also have them wait as a spotter near the rapid if help is needed.  Take a look at this video clip to see an extreme boating hazard situation.  I have actually been in a similar situation before and really discovered the power of the river.

This type of whitewater is way above where you would be taking a child, but is a good reminder of the power of the river environment.  If the rapid you are running looks to crazy, let the kids get out and walk around.  

8. Are we camping near water?

Once you are at camp, the danger isn't over.  If you are camping near a water body, you always need to be aware of where your kids are at.  It only takes a second to trip and fall face down in the shallow water.  This can be a little stressful but the key is to set-up camp so you can always see your child at all times.  

We have a favorite spot on our home river that is right on the rivers edge.  We have a rule: someone must always be within 5 feet (or grabbing  distance) from the kids.  We also put a life jacket on our 2 yr old when she plays at the waters edge.
9 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on River Trips

9. What age is best?

To be honest, I can’t answer this one for you because all kids are different.  But, if you cover all of these 8 questions completely, then I think you are well on your way regardless of age.  I was first boating through whitewater at age 5, but think I might wait a little longer with my girls.  

Please comment below and let me know what age your kids first got on the river or when you plan to get them out, its nice to hear what other people feel on the subject.


Think about these tips, practice them and make sure your children are as safe as possible for your next big trip.  I would love to hear from you so if you have any feedback or questions send me an email at dave@campingstovecookout.com.

Also, I have a special opportunity that I want to provided for the  Mommy Loves Trees readers. Click on this link http://www.campingstovecookout.com/mommylovestrees and you will get a free copy of my Beginner’s Guide to Camping.  This eBook will help you plan and organize your next camping trip.

Nature Walk: Autumn Leaf Masks

Today I welcome Helen from Craft Ideas for Kids to the blog. She has a ton of awesome craft ideas for you and your kids. Many of which can be done outdoors. Please head over and check out her site. 

Autumn is easily my favorite season: the splendor of color, the crisp air and the fun of crunchy leaves. When Mae invited me to write a guest post for Mommy Loves Trees, I couldn't wait to ditch the pom-poms and glitz and take my family on a woodland excursion to collect natural crafting materials, such as leaves, twigs, pine cones and anything else that sparked my kids imaginations. 
Nature Walk: Autumn Leaf Masks
Whilst out, we stumbled across a gorgeous wooden play hut, which became our pixie hollow and the inspiration for our Autumn Leaf Masks. My little lovely imagined herself as a woodland fairy, eagerly filling her pockets with leaves and sticks. We really did have so much fun exploring and couldn't wait to transform our “collections” into something magical.
Nature Walk: Autumn Leaf Masks

Autumn Leaf Masks: Materials

A range of natural materials – leaves/twigs etc
Cardboard or/and Paper Plate
PVA glue
Masking or ordinary sticky tape

Autumn Leaf Masks: How-to

Step 1

Display your natural materials.

To create a base for the leaf masks, draw a figure of eight onto a piece of cardboard (we recycled a cereal box) and simply cut it out.
Nature Walk: Autumn Leaf Masks

Step 2

Here's the really fun bit!

Begin sticking the leaves directly onto the cardboard, building up the design using a range of colors and layering. 

To layer the leaves, I recommend using masking tape to secure the larger leaves.
Nature Walk: Autumn Leaf Masks

Nature Walk: Autumn Leaf Masks

 Step 3

Using tape, secure a stick onto the back of the mask.
Nature Walk: Autumn Leaf Masks

Now it's playtime! Our Autumn Leaf Masks created hours of family fun, exploration and open-ended play opportunities, with my little lovely switching between being a fairy, a flower, an owl and a lion!

I hope you've enjoyed our nature craft and for more crafty ideas, pay Craft Ideas for Kids a visit.

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Kiwibop Postcard Pals: Discover your world one postcard at a time.

Kiwibop Postcards and Pals are a fun and inexpensive way to introduce your kids the the many wonders of our world and beyond. But they do much more than that, Kiwibop is working to make a difference by bringing smiles to kids who have a life threatening disease or illness. But before I go on about Kiwibop, here is a little story from my life and how simple acts of kindness can make a difference.

My senior year of high school my youngest sister was diagnosed with ALL, Acute Lymphocyte Leukemia. The changes to our family life were drastic. My senior year turned into taxi service for my younger siblings while my mom was at the hospital with my sister or at home looking after her. But despite the hardships, my sister's cancer brought to our family closer, it helped us realize how much we loved each other and the importance of our relationships.

Besides learning to lean on each other, there were many organization and people who gave of their time and money to assist our family. We were the recipients of many acts of kindness that brought us moments of joy and relief during an extremely stressful time in our lives. Never forget the power of simple acts of kindness during times of trial, or anytime in life really.

Kiwibop Postcards use a portion of paid memberships to offer complimentary memberships to kids with life threatening diseases or injuries. You can even refer a kid on their website.

So who are the Kiwibop Postcard Pals? The Pals are six different characters that introduce your kids to new discoveries in nature, science, travel and space topics every month on a simple but beautiful postcard. Each membership includes four postcards per month and a one-time introductory package.
Kiwibop Postcard Pals: Discover your world one postcard at a time.

Each Pal is an expert in a different area: zoology, space, nature, micro discoveries, travel and the ocean. Each postcard is from a different character and highlights are new discovery in their area of expertise. I have already found new places to add to our dream vacation list.

The Kiwibop website also offers Fact Explorer; which gives you and your kids more ideas for exploring the information on the postcards.

There are 3 different options for memberships and all cost under $4 a month. A seriously good deal. Plus you are helping those in need.

Bonus Use: I have started carrying these with me to use as non-electronic entertainment for my kids when we are traveling, at lessons or running errands. They take up a lot less space than an iPad or hand help gaming system and have given me opportunity to answer questions my kids ask as they look at the cards. They haven't gotten board so far because we get four new ones every month.
Kiwibop Postcard Pals: Discover your world one postcard at a time.

Follow along for more inspiration and ideas for exploring the outdoors as a family. 

Disclosure: I received my first 4 postcards free of charge to facilitate this review but all opinions are my own. 


5 Simple Fall Activities: No Extra Equipment Required

This is the second post in my No Extra Equipment Required series; a series that highlights outdoor activities that don't require any extra equipment. I am challenging myself to get creative and help my kids develop their creativity and imaginations. 

I am so excited fall is here. I know some of you are lucky enough to already be enjoying the seasonal changes. We had 75 degree weather this morning and it was such a relief.  I love fall for lots of reasons: the trees, pumpkins, campfires, sweaters and apples. But really fall is the perfect season for just being outdoors and enjoying cooler weather. So I rounded up my favorite activities for enjoying the outdoors that require no extra equipment.
5 Simple Fall Activities: No Extra Equipment Required
  • Play in the leaves or create a leaf maze. Love art projects using leaves? I just did a huge round up with 20 awesome projects using fall leaves. You can also check out my Outdoor Activities for Kids Pinterest board (link at bottom of post) for more inspiration. 
    5 Simple Fall Activities: No Extra Equipment Required
  • Break out the camera and capture the beauty with these awesome tips for taking photos in the fall
  • Campfire - Even if you can't go camping, look for parks with day use areas. There are many that have fire pits. The cooler weather is the perfect time for enjoying marshmallows and hot chocolate around a fire. 
  • Hike and play the Leaf Match game - Pick up a leaf from the ground and find which tree it came from. It might not be as easy as as you think with all the changing colors. And seriously, there isn't a better time to be hiking.
  • Create a new tradition and just GET OUTDOORS! We go apple picking every year but this year we don't live near any orchards. So I am going to make homemade apple cider and some pumpkin muffins and have a breakfast picnic with my kids at our favorite park. 
Bonus: Don't forget about the trees. Check out this post for ideas on exploring and learning about why trees loose their leaves in the fall.

Outdoor activities don't have to be complicated; what is important is that you are outdoors as a family enjoying nature and each other.

What are your favorite fall outdoor activities?

Don't forget about the huge Giveaway I am participating in. I would love to see one of my readers win some cash. 

Follow Mae @ Mommy Loves Trees's board Kids - Outdoor Activities on Pinterest.

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party


Nature Walk: 20 Art Projects Using Fall Leaves + Giveaway

Fall is my favorite season; mainly because of the changing color of the leaves and the cooler weather. It is the perfect opportunity to get outdoors. With the abundance of leaves falling from the trees, I have rounded up
Nature Walk: 20 Art Projects Using Fall Leaves + Giveaway

Bonus: The best way I have found to preserve leaves is covering them in Mod Podge. Just paint on a thin coat using a paint brush and let them dry on a piece of wax paper or tin foil. 

Now for the GIVEAWAY. It is a good one!

Win one of FOUR $500 cash prizes directly in your paypal account! This giveaway is open internationally. You must be 18+ years old to enter. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please see detailed terms and conditions below the giveaway for more info.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


7 DIY Costume Ideas for Nature Lovers

Halloween is such a fun time of year but can be stressful for us a parents. Lot so pressure to find or make the perfect costumes for our kids. And most costumes are expensive or complicated to make. So I have rounded up 7 nature-themed costumes that don't require a sewing machine and that use simple materials you can find around your house or at least at Walmart.
7 DIY Costume Ideas for Nature Lovers

Tree w/ Owl Costume

This is such an easy costume to make. You could even use it as an adult costume.


Brown or grey shirt
1 Copy of Pattern
Brown Felt
Orange Felt
White Felt
Black Felt
Hot Glue and Gun (or fabric glue)
Head Band
Pipe Cleaners
Leaves (real or fake) - If using real, coat leaves in Mod Podge.
My leaves have lasted a week and a half so far. 


  1. Print and cut out pattern
  2. Trace pattern onto corresponding colors of felt and cut out. 
  3. Hot glue owl together starting with the eyes, then beak, wings and feet. Just make it match the picture. I found it easiest of assemble the owl then lift and glue, piece by piece. 
  4. Hot glue owl towards the bottom of the black oval. 
  5. Cut pipe cleaners in half. You may not have to do this if your pipe cleaners are short, mine were really long. 
  6. Hot glue leaves to ends of the pipe cleaners. 
  7. Wind leaf pipe cleaners around head band. 
  8. Glue or fabric tape black oval with owl onto shirt. 
  9. Ready to go. Put it on and have a wonderful Halloween.  

Tree Hugger

Wear normal clothes and carry around/hug a log, tree or wood grained pillow (Care2).
OR hug your cute kid dressed as a tree!
Here are a couple options for log, tree and wood grained pillows.

The Lorax

This is such a cute costume from O My Blonde Family. You can always make this no sew by using purchased orange cap and clothes. 7 DIY Costume Ideas for Nature Lovers

Robin Hood

Come on, he lived in the forest. What is more tree related than that? I made this from felt. You could use glue instead of a sewing machine.
7 DIY Costume Ideas for Nature Lovers

Woodland Fairy

No Sew Owl Costume

7 DIY Costume Ideas for Nature Lovers

Monarch Butterfly

7 DIY Costume Ideas for Nature Lovers

Above all, just let your kids have fun and be creative. How awesome is a Darth Vader woodland fairy!
7 DIY Costume Ideas for Nature Lovers
Here are a few other great ideas -
12 eco-themed halloween costumes from Mother Nature Network
10 more nature themed costumes from The Natural Capital

Please feel free to add your nature or outdoor themed costume ideas.

My Pinterventures


Apple Picking - Add Adventure Without Adding Cost.

Apple picking is my favorite fall activity. We use to pick apples with our best friends as kids, then spend the rest of the day canning and making apple cider. Nowadays, picking apples can be quite an event. I love all the other activities that can be available at apple orchards, hay rides and such, but the costs can add up fast. So I rounded up a few activities that will make your next apple picking trip an adventure without adding any extra costs.
Apple Picking: Adding Adventure Without Adding Cost.
  • Involve friends. Almost any activity is better with friends. 
  • Take advantage of what's free. One of the orchards we picked at couple years ago had these fun picture boards. I have been to farms that included corn mazes. Sometimes there are some really good deals out there. 
    Apple Picking: Adding Adventure Without Adding Cost.
    My son loved these free picture boards. He was just a little too short. 
  • Go for a monster (bug) hunt - Do you see different types of bugs than what you see in your backyard? Can you find any bugs eating the apples? 
    Apple Picking: Adding Adventure Without Adding Cost.
    My son is always fascinated by bugs. 
  • Have a picking race. See who can pick the most apples in the shortest period of time. Being careful not to bruise the apples of course. This was fun even with just my son and I. 
  • Make a campfire treat that the kids can be involved in. These baked apples look amazing and simple to make. There is never a better time to enjoy a campfire than the fall. If you don't have a fireplace, check local state parks for day-use areas. 
I have taken my kids apple picking the past 2 years. But this year I can't find an orchard near us. I have only been able find peach orchards. Since I can't pick apples I have decided to buy apples from the store and resurrect my childhood tradition of making apple cider. I am going to try this recipe. I wish we were picking apples, but enjoying cider will have to do for now. Maybe we will get some doughnuts and have a breakfast picnic.

What is your favorite fall activity?

Follow along for more inspiration and ideas on getting outdoors as a family. 

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


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