For the first 6 months of his life Cragbaby was on a breastmilk only diet. Food at the crag was easy – as long as he was with Mommy he wouldn’t go hungry! Even when it came time to introduce solids we were still relying on breastmilk for the bulk of his nutrition, so it wasn’t until around the 9 or 10 month mark that we had to start planning out C’s crag menu along with our own. Now that Cragbaby is a big boy, we’ve had to devise our own plan for making sure our picky toddler is putting more than just dirt in his mouth on climbing weekends. The following is a list of tips that have proven to be invaluable in keeping C not only nourished, but usually entertained as well!
1. Eat and Run – Cragbaby has never been one of those mild-mannered babies content with being quietly spoon-fed from someone’s lap while everyone else dines at the table. Attempts to do so usually end up with spilled drinks, dropped food, and frustrations all around – the only winners here are any furry friends scavenging below for scraps! We’ve discovered that a more “on-the-go” eating strategy works out well for all parties involved (especially when we’re outside and no one cares about the trail of crumbs left behind!). Instead of just chasing C around while he explores, I chase him around with a granola bar, offering him a bite every time he stops to catch his breath.
2. Seat with a View - If our crew is having a meal together as a group back at camp (or if the crag setting is not conducive for roaming) we perch Cragbaby up with everyone else so he can be part of the mealtime conversations. If there is a picnic table at our campsite, we use a portable high chair. Ours is made by Chicco and its been a lifesaver numerous times – its relatively cheap (less than $35) and easily hooks on to any picnic table. If there isn’t a table, we simply strap C in to his backpack carrier – so long as other folks are sitting with him and he’s getting food, he is usually quite happy to remain there long enough for everyone to grab some grub.
3. Eat Your Greens - Since C is still doesn’t have enough chompers to handle easy-to-pack raw veggies like carrots or broccoli, he could easily go a whole weekend without eating any veggies. Not a big deal every now and then, but as often as we rely on eating at camp or out of a backpack, I want to make sure that we’ve got enough tasty and healthy options. We’ve had a lot of success with “squeezies” (our unofficial name). Made by several different companies, these resealable pouches are made with blended wholesome ingredients (no weird fillers), and have a consistency of applesauce. They are made with all different combinations of fruit and veggie mixes, pack well, and best of all taste great! Cragbaby’s favorite brands are Happy Baby, Plum Organics, and Trader Joe’s, which we rotate through depending on what’s on sale.
4. Container Entertainers - Having plenty of containers on hand means that not only will you have less wasted food (please tell me my kid’s not the only one who takes one bite out of the granola bar before signing the words, “All done!”), but also plenty of nesting, stacking, pouring, and collecting tools. One of Cragbaby’s favorite pasttimes is filling empty tupperware containers with various nature trinkets (rocks, twigs, sand, etc), then gleefully dumping out the contents on our blanket before gathering them all up again.
5. Hydration Stations - Especially with warmer temps on the way, don’t forget to have water easily available to your tyke, and to offer often. We of course have a sippy cup available, but one of the best parts of a climbing day according to C is getting to drink out of the camelbak like Mommy and Daddy. Cragbaby is also still nursing a few times a day, which goes a long way in keeping him well-hydrated, as well as filling in any nutritional gaps caused by picky eating.
6. Safety First - Let’s face it, offering food to a curious toddler is fun, so odds are that if you are climbing with or near a group, other people are going to be offering your child food. Remember that most non-parents are not aware of potential food allergens and choking hazards. The crag is not the time or place that you want to discover that your child has a peanut allergy. Be sure to inform everyone in your climbing party if there are certian foods or drinks that you don’t want your child to have. Also don’t forget to remind them not to offer giant pieces of food or to allow your child to put things like rocks in their mouths. It sounds simplistic, but just a few months ago, when we were climbing at the Red, I saw a random girl (from a party that was climbing next to ours) offering C some sort of cookie that was similar in size and shape to a shooter marble. When I explained to her it was a choking hazard, she said in disbelief, “I had no idea. I just thought all kids liked cookies.” Remember that YOU are the one responsible for keeping your child safe, and at the crag you need to be just as vigilant, probably more so.
With the right food choices and a flexible attitude, eating in the Great Outdoors doesn’t have to be complicated. And the best part? No crumbs to sweep up afterwards! What about everyone else? I’d love for others to chime in on their must-haves for making outdoor mealtimes a success!