Family Fun Off-Road: Introducing Your Kids to Mountain Biking

By David Janeson

Mountain biking is a great activity that combines a love of nature and the benefits of physical activity. If you’ve been thinking about introducing your kids to mountain biking, also called off-road biking, now’s the time.

Teaching and working with your kids gives you a unique opportunity to form a special bond. Mountain biking also builds confidence, teaches decision-making skills and gives kids a way to commune with nature. With the right equipment and practice, you and your family can look forward to a lot of fun mountain biking adventures in the years to come.

Talk the Talk

If the subject of mountain biking hasn’t come up before, talk to your kids and get their thoughts about it. If they don’t know much about mountain biking, give them a brief description and test the waters. If they already love to ride their bikes and enjoy the outdoors, you’re more than halfway there.

Getting the Bike Right

The right mountain bike is the bike that fits your child’s body, height and capabilities. Include the kids in the buying process. Let them sit on the bike, ride it if permissible and listen to their opinions. Guide their choices, of course, but make sure they feel part of the process.

Purchase the highest quality mountain bike you can afford. If you’re on a budget, go for a solid frame and upgrade components as your child’s skills improve.

If you’re not ready to buy, look into renting a bike first.

Safety First

Don’t skimp when it comes to safety. Falls are bound to happen anytime kids learn a new physical skill. Make sure the kids have helmets that fit properly. Gloves and elbow and knee pads are also recommended.

Start Slow and Smooth

Slow and smooth — that’s the way to start. If you have a lawn, have the kids practice riding over the bumps and grassy areas to get used to riding off-road surfaces.

“As your kids learn to ride off-road and build strength in their legs, add obstacles such as small logs and rocks, to give them experience in riding over what they’re likely to encounter on the trail.” — David Janeson

Head to a park with rolling hills to give kids the experience of biking up and down.

Take the time to let kids master maneuvers and build muscles. Expert mountain bikers don’t happen overnight.

The Next Level

Easy does it. Find a wide and relatively smooth jeep trail or similar off-road spur. Let the kids lead so you can keep an eye on what’s going on. Rest when someone begins to struggle.

Most of all, make it fun. Bring snacks, take breaks and enjoy one another’s company before moving on.

Be the Grown Up

Kids have parents for a reason. They often feel invincible and try things before they’re ready. It’s your job to see that doesn’t happen. Teach technique and make sure your kids master the skills they need to try more difficult trails. Never push them before they’re ready either physically or mentally.

With lots of practice and a little patience, it won’t be long before the entire family can look forward to hitting the trail together.


David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba


Try These Simple Tips for an Entertaining, Eco-Friendly Family Vacation

By David Janeson

You’ve seen the headlines about plastic waste and its impact on the environment. You’ve probably taken steps at home to minimize your use of plastic and recycle the plastic you do use.

You might have taken other measures to reduce your family’s environmental impact, too, including conserving water and making your home more energy-efficient. 

But, have you thought about that family vacation you’re planning? Is it possible to have a relaxing vacation without throwing your commitment to the environment out the window?

It is if you follow these tips.

Getting There

Planes, trains and automobiles — it doesn’t matter how you go, there’s a way to do it in an energy-efficient way.

“Air travel isn’t the greenest option, but if you have to fly, choose an airline with a proven record of implementing sustainable energy strategies and waste reduction.” — David Janeson

If it’s a road trip you’re after, think about renting a hybrid vehicle. Hybrids reduce fuel usage and, if you plan to travel many miles, your gas savings might make up for the rental cost.  

Have you thought about traveling by train? Train travel is incredibly eco-friendly. It’s also a great way to view the magnificent scenery.

Staying There

Did you know some hotels and resorts have green programs? Before you book your reservations, find out what types of environmentally-friendly programs are in place. Even if they don’t have a program, find out how they handle waste and if they’ve taken measures to reduce energy consumption.

Once You’re There

If getting around the destination is part of your plan, look at the region’s public transportation services. Hotels often have van services you can use instead of driving your own vehicle. Many places have bus lines, subways or trains as well.

When you’re out and about, do what the locals do. Eat at local restaurants. Purchase local produce. Look to local vendors and artisans for your souvenirs. Make sure the money you spend stays in the local community.

Take walking or biking tours. Visit museums. Explore city parks. Look at taking local walking tours to learn more about the region and its history.

Stay Close to Home

Look for areas close to home where you can have fun and explore nature without traveling every day. Rent a cabin on the lake, camp at a park or recreational area. Learn to love the areas close to your location.

It’s the Little Things

A family vacation gives you and the kids a much needed respite from the cares of everyday life. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about how your visit impacts the environment.

Follow these tips to not only leave your destination better than you found it but to  prove to your kids that living green is a way of life:

  • Reuse towels
  • Pick up trash as you visit areas and throw it in receptacles
  • Recycle when possible
  • Avoid single-use plastic utensils and cups


David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba

Too Much Screen-Time? Here’s How to Unplug the Kids and Get Back to Nature

By David Janeson

If you worry that your kids are overly focused on a cell phone or tablet, you’re not alone. Screen dependency is a real disorder with real consequences.

If unplugging your kids is a priority, there’s no better remedy than getting back in touch with nature. In fact, outdoor fun time and activities counteract much of the damage done by mobile device dependency.

The Consequences of Too Much Screen Time

Most experts agree — excessive use of screens cause communication  and sleep difficulties, thwart socialization and some studies indicate negative effects on brain development as well.

“Think about your own device usage. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going on in the online world and lose awareness of what’s going on around you, isn’t it?” — David Janeson


Think about how much worse it is for your child.

Why Get Back to Nature?

Kids spend on average seven hours a day on a screen and only four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play. The shift is due to several factors, including accessibility, urban life and largely unfounded fears about disease and a lack of safety.

But, experiencing nature is just plain good for kids.

Recent studies indicate that unstructured outdoor play times give children a chance to build confidence. Outdoor play also gives kids the freedom to think creatively, use their imaginations and engage in physical activity.

What Parents Can Do

It doesn’t matter where you live; you can create opportunities for your children to learn about and experience the natural world around them. If you instill a love for nature when your children are very young, you may find them less likely to become addicted to mobile devices as they grow.

Try one or more of these ways to interest your children in nature and the world around them no matter where you live:

  • Watch nature from your window: All you need is a bit of green space out the window and a notebook to log nature’s events, and you’ve got a fun activity the whole family can enjoy. Purchase a stargazing guide and bird identification book and let the children identify what they see and record the observations. Kids can learn about cloud formations and weather patterns and record sunset and sunrise times by observing what’s happening outside their door. This type of activity nurtures a child’s natural affinity with nature and builds a foundation for a life-long love of the outdoors.
  • Take a day trip: If green space is difficult to find in your immediate area, look at taking a day trip to one of the beautiful natural settings nearby. For example, Gull Harbour is only two hours from Winnipeg. Look for a close at hand area where you can spend the day hiking the trails, observing the landscape and picnicking with the family.
  • Take up an outdoor family activity: Enjoying nature as a family is a great way to instill and nurture a love of the natural world and strengthen the family bond. Biking, hiking or even taking walks together gets everyone outdoors.


David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba