June 6, 2022


7: Mom, how many more kids can you have? I need at least 2 more for my dance team.

--AparnaRC, @Wordesse

trail tip

Want to help your children become good helpers—around the house, at school, with friends and in their communities? Yeah, us too! Here’s how. Need an age-specific idea of what tasks are appropriate and will encourage them to develop their helping skills? Check this chore chart out.

trail talk

Last week was really, really rough. The death of 19 children and two adults in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, rocked us all. It’s an unfathomable tragedy, almost too much to bear. But, as parents in America, where there have been 27 school shootings already this year, it’s an appalling reality we have to face. Figuring out how to talk about this violence with our children and how to answer their inevitable questions is hard. This guide might be of some help. Please know, that with every cell in our bodies, we hope this is the very last time any of us ever, ever, ever have to do this.

We all know that reading to and with our children is important. But what we may not know is that it’s important for them well beyond their toddler years and it’s also pretty important for us, too. Yet the number of children who read for pure pleasure these days is apparently at a record low. According to last year’s results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), just one in three 13-year-olds read for fun. Although reading leads to lots of good outcomes like improved vocabulary, academic and personal success and more socio-emotional depth, it also has critical neurological benefits. And reading together, a particular kind of reading, can lead the body to release oxytocin, the “love drug.” This, in turn, is a boost for children, but also for parents, so many of whom are struggling with anxiety, stress and their own mental health. All of which is to say that reading, especially reading out loud and reading together even when your children are no longer in diapers, is well worth your time and will probably make you happier and healthier, too.

On that note, this selection of books for your summer reading list might be just what you need. While the titles here may not the best options for reading aloud to your children, there are good choices for all of your moods. And then you can turn to this guide for the books that are great for your joint reading sessions this summer, which we hope will take place in a hammock somewhere, swaying in a gentle breeze under the bright, warm sun… ahhhh…. We can’t wait!

trail matters

OK, we’ll start with the bad news to get it over with: Recycling plastics just really doesn’t work all that well. And it never really has, although that’s not what plastic manufacturers will have you believe. This recent piece from The Atlantic, as well as this one from CBS News, explain why plastic recycling is—and has always been—so flawed. Here’s to some serious “green-washing” if we ever saw it.

But, thankfully, that’s not the whole story. There are things consumers, companies and governments can do. Some are simple: thoroughly wash any food containers before dumping them into the recycling bin. Some are more complicated: build up and improve our domestic plastic recycling infrastructure (yeah, we can’t just ship our waste to other countries anymore). And we must also recognize, as one expert says, that landfills are just “a waste of waste.” All of it requires innovation and political will. But that is one a challenge we know this country can meet. 

trail mix

This spring our iksplor family was lucky enough to get out for some pretty great adventures with our children. Co-founder, Karissa Akin, took her daughter Everleigh, 5, to Iceland on a backcountry ski trip. On the opposite end of the heat index, our content director, Danielle Shapiro, took her daughter Esme, 6, to Colombia. Years of our own, pre-kid, adventurous travel helped prepare us for these journeys. But it’s really only by doing it with kids in tow that you learn how to do it with kids in tow. It’s trial and lots of error. So, now with a few trips under our belts, and as the summer travel season heats up, we thought we’d share some tips to help make adventurous outings with littles go a bit more smoothly.

1. Always include some activities in your itinerary tailored for the kids. Yes, museums are amazing. And, yes, a walking tour of historical sights will be educational. But sometimes they just want to color with other kids or jump on a crazy outdoor trampoline or splash around at the beach or cook a fun meal.

2. When doing new things, like snorkeling or ski touring, allow the outing to be shorter than you might have hoped or planned…it’s just great for kids to try new things. They don’t need to summit for the effort to be a success.

3. Down days (what Esme calls “free days”) are a must. Everyone needs some time that is unprogrammed, un-hurried and slow.

4. Bedtime can be a little more flexible. You’re doing cool stuff! And, you’re on vacation! So is your kid.

5. Don’t forget to pay a visit to a travel doc before leaving home. Depending on your destination, you and your kids may need specific vaccinations or medicines to protect you from diseases like Yellow Fever, malaria, stomach bugs and more.