Disclosure: This post is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Barilla. The opinions and text are my own.
When my kids head back to school, it seems like our family mealtime becomes a challenge worthy of advanced strategic planning. Mom, dad, and kids all have different schedules, and bringing us together for a healthy, meaningful dinner suddenly moves to the top of my list of daily goals.
Pasta dishes have always been my go-to recipe for delivering fast, fun, and healthy meals to my family. But I have to be honest here. Over the years, I may have relied too heavily on the standard kid-favorite pastas, namely spaghetti and lasagne, with the occasional elbow and fettuccine thrown in for variety. Those are the pastas my kids have asked for, both to eat and to make on their own.
Recently Barilla gave me the opportunity to switch things up with my usual pasta selection, to try a few different recipes that were as fast and flavorful as those I’ve made in the past. My kids helped me look through the wide variety of Barilla’s pasta shapes, finally deciding to fancy things up with their Barilla® Farfalle (pronounced “Fahr-Fah-Ley”) pasta. Farfalle means “butterfly” in Italian, but my kids think the individual pasta pieces look like bowties.
We paired the pasta with Barilla Traditional Sauce, one of 14 delicious sauce varieties they offer. My kids picked out meat and veggies for additional texture and flavor, all with the requirement that the preparation of the meal take no longer than 30 minutes. This recipe actually takes almost exactly that much time if you have at least two sets of helping hands.
with Traditional Sauce, Ground Beef, Veggies, and Romano Cheese
1 box Barilla® Blue Box Farfalle pasta
1 jar Barilla® Traditional Sauce
1 pound ground beef
1 14.5oz can French-style green beans
1 cup roasted red peppers, sliced thinly
1 cup grated Romano cheese
Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large pot, then cook pasta for 11 minutes.
Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook the ground beef, breaking apart any large chunks.
Add Barilla® Traditional Sauce, green beans (drained), and red pepper slices to ground beef, then simmer.
Drain cooked pasta, combine with sauce mixture, sprinkle with Romano cheese.
The beauty of this stress-free recipe goes beyond its simplicity and delicious taste. It also gets your kids to eat their veggies. The thin green beans and peppers easily stick to the pasta, almost guaranteeing there will be no little piles of leftover ingredients on your child’s plate.
Barilla Farfalle pasta, as with all of their pasta cuts, cooks to a perfect “al dente” texture every time, making mealtime prep simple and straightforward. For families with busy schedules, ingredients you can always count on are a must.
Being a stay-at-home dad is a privilege and a joy. I would not trade places with anyone if it meant not being able to parent my kids on a full-time basis. I am absolutely, perfectly content.
Well, most of the time.
I think most stay-at-home parents have those moments when they feel a bit envious of those who command respect and authority through their jobs. At home, our authority is always in question by belligerent children, while respect is… well, mostly non-existent.
I have a friend who is a well-known TV news anchor. He gets to interview politicians, celebrities, and business leaders. Viewers trust and admire him. From the outside, his career seems exciting and challenging. It’s the kind of life I had once envisioned, before the children came along. I’ve had those moments, when talking with my friend, where I wished I could trade places with him and experience some of the prestige and energy of a job like his.
So it came as kind of a shock when my friend sent me an email expressing his desire to trade places with me! He wrote: “I work hours you would puke at. I’m known around the company as the Devil Who Wears Prada. Everyone’s scared of me around here. It’s all about BS on the air and stroking egos. I envy your life, you’re my living example of Adam@home. You’re doing well, my friend.”
Maybe he was just telling me what I wanted to hear. Or maybe he was having one of those moments where the grass looks greener on the other side.
Or perhaps he’s realizing that when his kids are grown, he’s going to wish he’d spent more time with them instead of at the office where friends are few and memories are trivial at best.
There’s nothing about my life as a stay-at-home dad that I would trade away. Even in those fleeting moments of “what if” I never forget the value of my experiences with my kids. Hands down, it beats anything a career can deliver.
For my family, the long, lazy days of summer are anything but boring. We stay busy during these warm months, camping and traveling and working on yard projects to say the least.
But compared to the controlled chaos of the school year, summer can seem downright chill. At least, as a family, we’re all on the same page in June, July, and August. Or in the same car. Or even in the same room. That’s not how it is goes once school starts up again. Come September, we all scatter off in different directions from morning until night, and it requires some major tactical planning for us all to stay connected and on track with each other.
Let me tell you about the recent horrible, no good, very bad semester when I nearly lost my mind and learned a valuable lesson about maintaining my family’s busy schedules. It was early spring, when you just naturally want to be more active after a winter’s hibernation, and neither of my teens were driving yet. My son was dual enrolled at the local community college, with an odd mix of early morning and late night classes. He was also taking a driver’s ed course, volunteering at the food bank AND the library, working on his Eagle Scout project, and tutoring part-time. Meanwhile, my daughter was appearing in two separate theater productions, crewing for a third, involved with three afterschool clubs, volunteering at the library, taking voice and dance lessons, selling Girl Scout cookies, and had recently begun a regular workout schedule at the gym. On top of all that, believe it or not, my wife and I actually had our own work and leisure activities. The hectic and erratic nature of our four schedules was not new, but the sheer number of people, places, and things I had to keep track of was at an unprecedented level for me. It came as a surprise, but luckily I had habits and resources in place to help me settle in, even if it did scare me for a few weeks.
Surviving the busy work and school schedules of your family members takes some simple strategizing. I’ve found that a mixture of old and new technologies can bring everyone together so that nobody feels left out or lost.
A centrally-located dry erase whiteboard is a must. If you don’t have one of these, of any size, on the wall of your kitchen, you’re missing out on an extremely effective means of family communication. We’ve been through several, some featuring a weekly or monthly calendar, some with attached bulletin board and magnets. In the end, a simple large blank white board with 2 or 3 different colored ink pens does the job perfectly, whether it’s for daily reminders or ongoing shopping lists. The board gives every member of your family pause to read or write a message that is important for all to see.
A family calendar is also a must-have item for the wall of your house, if only to serve as a reminder that the days and weeks ahead are going to be busy ones. We use Google Calendar on our phones far more often to plan and coordinate events, but the old-fashioned paper calendar is an important back-up. Also, you get monthly pictures of kittens or Disney princesses.
The old-fashioned techniques still work well, but you absolutely have to bring your entire family into the digital age in order to stay connected these days. And that means everybody gets a smartphone. Sorry, there’s no debate about this. If you have a school-aged child involved in multiple extracurricular activities, and you want to remain sane, get them a phone for voice, messaging, and a synced calendar.
My family has a simple set-up. We each have our own Google account for email, calendar, and online storage. Each of our calendars is synced to the others and color-coordinated, so it only takes a glance to see where everyone is and what they should be doing. We also agreed to use one messaging service, iMessage, for family communication. My teens use other services, like Snapchat, to talk with their friends. Last, we use a locator app, Find My Friends, to find each other on a map. This comes in handy when my daughter is wondering how close I am to picking her up, but I can’t text while I’m driving to let her know.
For several years now, practically everything involving the management of the family schedule has gone through our phones. It’s one aspect of the omnipresent screen that I heartily welcome. Of course, one thing that isn’t so welcome is the huge wireless bill when you have a family of four constantly texting, emailing, locating, and communicating with each other all day long.
If a family-sized wireless bill is stopping you from getting everyone’s schedules sorted, there’s good news from Straight Talk Wireless. They offer easy, inexpensive, family-friendly phone plans. Just in time for school, Straight Talk has added more high-speed data to its unlimited $45 and $55 plans. Now you can get unlimited talk, text and the first 8GB of high-speed data then 2G* for $45 or bump it up to 12GB of high-speed data then 2G* for $55. There’s a reason that Straight Talk Wireless is the nation’s leading no-contract wireless carrier. They simply offer the best phones on the best networks for less. There are no contracts, no credit checks, and no mystery fees.
Walk into any Walmart store, or visit StraightTalk.com, for more information and ways to save on your family phone plan. You can set your family up with the latest smartphones if you want, including the Samsung Galaxy S8. Maybe start your younger kids out with something simpler, but don’t leave them out of the family connectivity. Get them used to communicating their activities now, and it will pay dividends later, especially during the teen years when kids seem to have trouble sharing much of anything.
As a parent, it’s extremely satisfying to watch your children pursue their interests, even if it seems like they’re going in a dozen different directions at once. An important part of childhood is trying things out, learning what works and what doesn’t, and developing confidence in favored pursuits. And an important part of parenthood is keeping track of it all. With a few simple techniques, you can save yourself a lot of stress and confusion in dealing with your family’s comings and goings. Most importantly, keep your family members connected with a reliable phone plan, like the ones offered by Straight Talk Wireless. There is no better way to stay in touch and on schedule.
On the day my first child was born, a dad was also born. That was me. And it was a bit of a surprise. Sure, as the pregnancy moves along and you read the books, attend the classes, and baby-proof the house, you think, “Hey, I’m going to be a dad. That’s cool.”
But then, right in that moment when you see your child for the first time, you can’t help but realize that your life just took a radically different path upon which you are going to see and experience things that you may never have known if not for becoming a dad.
To borrow a bit of philosophy from Doctor Who, a TV show I only started watching because of my kids, the moment you become a dad is a Fixed Point in Time, an event that shapes history to such an extent that everything that follows must change. On that day you first became a father, you didn’t just bring a life into the world, but you also drastically reshaped your own into something unrecognizable from what it would have been.
Since my own birth as a dad, I look back on all the changes that followed and realize how truly blessed and thankful I am to have taken this path, and to have had the experiences, both positive and negative, with my kids along the way. I don’t think much about what my life would’ve been like if I hadn’t become a dad, but I’m confident it would have been lacking much of what makes me happy today.
Here are four reasons I’m thankful for becoming a dad.
1. Child’s Play
Having kids gives you a free pass to jump into a ball pit, watch Disney movies in the middle of the day, climb all over the playground, cannonball into the pool, build Lego cities, and basically do all the fun things you used to do when you were a kid. It’s called “being a dad,” and is completely in line with the duties of fatherhood. I would have a hard time getting away with most those activities if I didn’t have children. Most people frown upon childless men frolicking at the park. But if you’re a dad, you can play all day.
Oh sure, you might point to that verse in Corinthians, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” Me? I’d rather quote Geoffrey the Giraffe, “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid…”
Seriously, though, it’s one of the biggest perks of becoming a dad, to have fun with your kids on their level. Play is so important to children. I would suggest that it’s also important to adults, and we far too often forget that. I’m thankful I’ve had a good reason to be silly, creative, active, and spontaneous with my kids.
2. Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
I’m thankful for the many adventures I’ve had with my kids as we’ve focused on family travel over the years. We’ve been to many places, but there’s one in particular that I would have a hard time explaining if not for the phrase, “We’re taking the kids…” Yes, I love Disneyland. It’s one of my happy places. But I’m not sure I’d feel quite as comfortable there without children in tow, especially when meeting Winnie the Pooh or riding Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train. Yes, I like riding through the giant watermelon, what of it?!
Even when we go to more “grown up” places, I’ve enjoyed organizing the itinerary around things for the kids. On a family trip to London, we spent time at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, toured Harry Potter sites, and saw Shrek the Musical in the West End. None of those places would’ve interested me if not for being a dad. Other family trips, to the Washington Coast, Yellowstone, and Hawaii, were all planned around the kids. I’m not even sure what adults do in those places, and I don’t really care.
Many years ago, we took my then 3-year-old son on a road trip to the small Idaho town of Emmett to see and ride Thomas the Tank Engine, He was a big fan at the time. So was I. My childless friends felt sorry for me for having to endure the giant blue train and the strange man in the top hat. All I could think was, “Trains are cool. Thomas is cool. This is fun.” The huge smile on my son’s face was awesome, but the smile on mine was kind of nice, and for experiences like that I am truly thankful.
3. Energy is Contagious
It didn’t take long after becoming a dad for me to learn that kids contain almost endless amounts of energy. And it definitely is contagious. I’ve heard parents say that they feel drained of energy by their kids. Yes, I’ve had those moments, but for the most part it’s been the other way around. Through the years, my kids have kept me young, perked me up, given me new life, and focused my thoughts. Basically, they’ve been like the best cup of coffee you could imagine.
Before becoming a dad, I didn’t lack energy. I just didn’t always have a reason to use it. I could sit down and stay down for hours. No kids to feed, chase, chauffeur, or play with. I’m thankful for every moment where lethargy was interrupted and my pilot light was reignited by one of my kids’ needs. Those moments have always transitioned into renewed spirit and momentum toward personal goals and activities.
4. Think About It
I can’t imagine what interests I would have if I’d never had kids. Much of what I enjoy thinking about and doing these days stems from my 19 years as a dad. My current interest in live theatre has grown from my daughter becoming involved with local community theatre. Over the years, we had attended a musical or play now and again, but I never personally appreciated the performances until I saw how much time and effort went into the shows that my daughter was involved in. She is also responsible for bringing much of my music collection up to modern times, with her love of bands like Twenty One Pilots, Panic At The Disco, and Mountain Goats, not to mention the Hamilton soundtrack, helping introduce me to new sounds. Who knew that any good music came out after 1998?
My son’s interest in Scouting led me to rekindle my own memories and experiences from way back when. I became involved with his troop as a leader, nearly three decades after putting away my Eagle Award. Without my son, I would never have remembered how much fun it can be to camp, build fires, cook in a Dutch oven, and even tie knots. It became a big part of my thoughts for over 5 years as my son worked toward his own Eagle and I helped other boys advance to their goals.
Mostly, though, becoming a dad has completely changed how I think about the plight of children in this world. I’m not sure how much I ever thought about how kids are raised before having one of my own. Now, every news story, discussion, and issue surrounding children gets my immediate attention. I think about small things like after school programs, park improvements, and movie ratings. And, thanks to my daughter’s involvement with a theatrical education group called Girl, Awake, I pay attention to big issues like childhood poverty, neglect, and violence.
That one moment when my first child was born, everything changed for me. Every single thing. Being born as a dad reshaped my life in ways I never could’ve imagined. And I find myself now, looking back, thankful for every one of them. On this Father’s Day, I hope you are thankful for how your life has changed.
I’m also thankful to Pampers for allowing me to reflect on the incredible feeling that fatherhood has brought to my life. For more than 50 years, moms and dads have trusted Pampers to care for their babies’ happy and healthy development. Visit pampers.com to learn more about their products, join the Pampers Rewards program, and find ideas and information to help your baby get the most out of love, sleep, and play.
Watch this cool new #ThanksBaby video from Pampers that captures the amazing relationship that is created between a dad and his baby when a child is born and the beautiful journey of fatherhood begins.
This is how my family watches movies together. Sitting down for a viewing of the 1964 Disney movie The Three Lives of Thomasina…
Me (pausing DVD): “Hey, look, it’s the girl from Mary Poppins!”
Me (pausing DVD): “Cool. Her father is Patrick MacGoohan from The Prisoner.”
Me (pausing DVD): “Kids, see that little boy? He played the girl’s brother in Mary Poppins.”
Me (pausing DVD): “Whoa. You know who that is? The vet’s assistant? That’s the actor who played Paul’s grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night! He looks so different.”
Me (pausing DVD): “What? I don’t believe it. Honey, do you recognize her? C’mon, we just watched the last season of her TV show. Hello? Monarch of the Glen? That’s Molly McDonald, only 40 years younger.”
Me (pausing DVD): “Did you know that the girl playing Mary is the daughter of…”
Everyone Else: “Somebody take the remote away from Dad!!!”
That’s a question I hear a lot. From friends, family, strangers. But mostly from myself.
It’s a rhetorical question, of course, because I know why I’m tired.
It’s called being a parent.
I remember a time when I never thought about sleep. When I could stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning, then get up at 6am and head to work with a focused mind and enough energy to get me through my day.
Then came children. And worries. Lots of them. And they only multiply over the years (the worries, but sometimes the kids too).
Now that my kids are teens, one of my biggest worries is whether they get enough sleep, as sleep deprivation is a huge danger to the developing brain of a teenager. Each morning I ask them if they slept well, and each night I remind them to go to bed early, turn off phones, and give their brains a chance to recharge.
I’m like the airline passenger who ignores the flight attendant’s instructions to “put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.”
I keep forgetting to worry about my own sleep. And yet, that question persists.
“Why am I so tired?”
You can imagine how happy I was when Beautyrest sent me their Sleeptracker monitor to help me collect data about my sleeping habits, so that I can make some positive changes to my daily routine in the hopes of improving my role as a parent.
It’s really difficult to be good at anything when you’re sleep deprived. Even though my teens don’t need as much of my attention as when they were younger, one of them still relies on me for driving her to the myriad of activities she’s involved with seemingly every single day of the week.
Driving while tired is a recipe for disaster, so I was quick to set up the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor on my bed. The installation was simple. You place the sensor between your mattress and box frame and it magically monitors your movements, breathing, and heart rate through the night. The product actually comes with two sensors, one for each side of the bed if you share it with a partner. The sensors connect to a small processor that can sit on the floor, and then each night’s data is streamed to a smartphone app that you can download for free.
That’s not magic. Just amazing science and technology to improve your life.
It’s an extremely well-designed product, much better than the invasive wearable sleep monitors that I’ve seen in the past. The Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor measures things like how long it takes to fall asleep, the various sleep cycles, body movement, and heart rate. It then makes suggestions on simple changes you can make to your routine to feel better rested.
The key, really, is to understand how you are sleeping, so rather than ask, “Why am I so tired?” you can instead ask, “What am I going to do about it?”
After only a week of using the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor, I was already feeling more refreshed because of the personalized coaching that the Sleeptracker app offers each day based around my sleep habits.
Something as simple as letting the product change your wakeup time by 15 minutes through the Smart Alarm feature can make a world of difference in how you feel for the rest of the day. I’m hopeful that continuing to monitor my sleep, and following through on making changes, will give me the energy and focus I need for on my parenting journey. #ISleepTo be a better dad.
Learn more about the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor on their website. Or follow them on Facebook. Don’t wait to get it for yourself, so you can stop asking that question, “Why am I so tired?” Even with everything a parent needs to worry about, there’s no reason you should be losing sleep.
I have partnered with Life of Dad and Beautyrest for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.
Yellowstone is the crown jewel of our National Park System. It was the first of its kind, and remains the most unique and diverse wilderness experience that you will find in this country.
It’s also an extremely cool place for kids.
But with almost 3500 square miles of lakes, geysers, canyons, and hot springs, there’s too much to see in one short stay. So, after four visits to Yellowstone, and consultation with my own children, I have compiled the following list of park sights and activities that will make your family trip an especially memorable one.
Ten Cool Things For Kids (and Grown-Ups) in Yellowstone National Park:
1. Dragon’s Mouth Spring
How can you resist telling your kids that a dragon lives in a cave near a mud volcano? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that this cavern, with its growls and thumps, and spitting steam, might just hold a real dragon.
2. Fishing Cone
It’s probably just a tall tale, but the story goes that the early trappers and explorers would catch fish in Yellowstone Lake, swing them directly into the Fishing Cone geyser just off shore, and have a meal of boiled fish in just minutes. “Hook and cook,” they called it. Like the dragon cave, another cool sight that will fire up the imagination.
3. Old Faithful Inn
What kid won’t love the largest log hotel in the world? Just walk inside the 100-year-old Inn’s lobby, with its four stories of lodgepole pine balconies and 500-ton stone fireplace, and your kids might just want to sit for awhile. Preferably in one of the many handmade wood rocking chairs. Better yet, stay in one of the Inn’s rooms. Prices are reasonable, and the food in the dining room is first-class. Continue reading →
Parents play so many roles, but one of the most important is that of protector.
I still remember the feeling that came over me when we brought our first child home. Driving away from the hospital, I was on full alert, ready to defend my newborn son with every ounce of my being. I had our car surrounded with a psychic force field the seven miles it took to reach the safety of our house.
Those early years were easy. My job as protector was mostly physical — making sure the house was baby proofed, or that my son didn’t get carried away by eagles. The perceived dangers were clear.
But as he got older and started learning about the world around him, suddenly things got complicated.
When he was three years old an airplane flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. My wife and I couldn’t help but watch TV coverage for days, but we didn’t encourage my son to absorb any of it. “Go play,” we’d tell him. I felt he just wasn’t old enough to think about this kind of evil.
You don’t sit a 3-year-old down and teach him about things like terrorism, rape, torture, and disease.
Eventually, though, they have to start understanding the harsh realities of life.
One of the saddest things about your children growing up is when they start to figure out that the world isn’t a blissful paradise with smiling people living on candy mountains.
I just want these feelings to come slowly. Step by gradual step.
When my son was nine, he took a big leap in his grasp of how cruel this world can be sometimes.
We were learning about Anne Frank, and how her family hid from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands. We read about the years of isolation, and then the betrayal and arrest of everyone in the hiding place.
At first, my son was mad that somebody had ratted them out. But then he asked me, “So what happened to Anne?”
I answered, “She was sent to a concentration camp.”
“And, she died there.”
He looked up at me suddenly, and I could see it in his eyes, this sort of angry bewilderment. It was like he was thinking, “What the hell is wrong with us that we do these things to each other?!”
He thought about it for a minute, and then the understanding dawned. Yes, this is, was, and always will be a cruel world. Bad things happen sometimes.
I think he really truly gets that now.
As his protector through the years, I’ve slowly guided him toward these moments of wisdom. Because of that, I think he’ll be better able to process the information and make good choices for himself.
But at the same time, I’ve given both my kids the chance to grow up with a foundation of hope and love, to know that the world is, first and foremost, a beautiful place with countless reasons to be happy and optimistic.
Even in our worst moments, I trust they will never forget that.
Here in Idaho, to quote George Harrison, it’s been a long cold lonely winter. An above average amount of snow and ice has my family feeling the cabin fever. We want to get out of the house, and yet it’s not always so easy, so we tend to want to stay in. It’s a very real winter paradox.
One thing we miss about being snowed in for so many months is a fun family night out at one of our favorite local steakhouses. That cozy comfort food always tastes great on these dark winter days. I’ve always struggled to recreate that atmosphere at home, to serve up a juicy steak, loaded baked potato, grilled vegetables, and fresh tasty soup laid out on a table decorated with fancy cloth napkins, flickering candles, and the good silverware.
I’m not alone in this. A recent survey showed that an overwhelming 92% of parents wish it were easier for them to recreate the steakhouse experience in the comfort of their own home, and at a dramatically reduced cost. So, you can imagine how happy I was to be contacted by my very own state’s premier provider of potato products, Idahoan® Foods, to talk about their brand new line of Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups.
These restaurant-quality soups are made with real Idaho® red potatoes and red potato skins. Believe me, we here in Idaho take our potatoes quite seriously, so I checked. We won’t stand for any of those puny tubers from Washington or Wisconsin. Our Famous Idaho Potatoes are considered royalty, so you can consider any soup made from them as the #KingofSoup.
After a successful steakhouse dinner with these premium soups from Idahoan® Foods, I can rightfully declare that they are, in fact, the #KingofSoup. My kids have even started calling me the #KingofSoup. But only because I told them they had to, or they wouldn’t get more soup.
There are four flavors: Creamy Potato, Loaded Potato, Cheddar Broccoli, and Three Cheese Chipotle. My kids love them all. These soups are so easy to make. You simply add water to the package, heat it up on the stove, and within five minutes you’re serving a delicious, nutritious soup to your grateful family. Add steak, veggies, bread, and those fancy napkins, and you’ve transformed your dining room into an expensive steakhouse.
So, let the snow pile up while we sit safely inside sipping our potato soup. I can be the #KingofSoup until spring at least. After that, I’ll still serve my kids Idahoan® Foods Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups, but they’ll probably be back to calling me “Dad” by then.
Check out all of the premium product offerings from Idahoan® Foods’ premium products at Idahoan.com and follow @IdahoanFoods on social media.
Idaho Dad has been compensated for this review/post, and all opinions are entirely mine. It’s really good soup, so go get some!
Hawaii is, without a doubt, an expensive place to take your family. Most popular activities will hit your wallet hard, so it’s good to have a few freebies lined up on your itinerary. Taking a hike is almost always going to cost you absolutely nothing, and it might just be the most memorable thing you do during your trip.
Picking the right trails to explore is key to an enjoyable experience. Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, you will want to limit your hiking to half a day or less to avoid tantrums and breakdowns (anything over 5 miles is probably too much). On our recent family vacation to Maui, we took five easy, kid-friendly hikes that gave us a taste of the islands without making anyone feel too tired. Consider one of these hikes if you plan a vacation to Maui.
1. Kapalua Coastal Trail
This is a 2-mile walk from Kapalua Beach to D.T. Fleming Beach. The highlight here, besides the stunning beaches and wild rocky coastline, is the Dragon’s Teeth area, a unique lava formation that juts out into the water and really does resemble a giant set of dragon’s teeth. Kids could spend an hour alone at this one spot, scrambling over the rocks, watching for sea turtles in the water below, and letting their imaginations run wild. The trail is accessible from several places, but we recommend parking near the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, exploring the Dragon’s Teeth, then heading west toward Kapalua Beach.
2. Iao Valley State Park
This lush, tropical area is home to the famous Iao Needle and was the site of an important battle during King Kamehameha’s unification of the island in the late 18th century. The history and natural beauty make it a great place to hike and learn. Several short trails are available, including a paved path to an outlook, as well as a garden trail that leads you through thick vegetation. It’s nothing more than half a mile. There are picnic tables and restrooms in the park, so take your time and admire the scenery.
3. Twin Falls
These are the first waterfalls you’ll see on the famed Road To Hana, in Ho’olawa Valley on the north shore of the island. Bring your swimsuits and water shoes, because you and the kids will want to take a little dip in the pools at the base of each falls. The first is a 10-minute walk, and the second is another 15 minutes beyond. It’s a little slippery in places, but worth the effort. There are porta potties and a snack stand back at the parking area.
4. Pipiwai Trail
This is the most challenging hike on my list. At 4 miles, it’s also the longest. The reason I found it so challenging is not the trail itself, but the fact that you must drive the entire Road To Hana to get to it. If you can manage that drive, the trail is worth the effort. The first 2 miles are uphill, but kids will love the surprises they find along the way. Highlights include a massive banyan tree, Pipiwai stream, Makahiku Falls, several wooden bridges, a breathtaking bamboo forest and, at the end of the trail, the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. There is so much to see along the trail, you barely even notice you’re hiking. The way back to the parking lot is just as stunning, and all downhill. If your kids can manage a longer hike, this is the one they’ll remember the most.
5. Ka’anapali Beach
This particular hike isn’t really a trail, but it might just be our favorite non-trail trail in Maui. Ka’anapali Beach has been called one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and after visiting it, we know why. The entire beach is about 3 miles long, but we recommend walking the lower mile from the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa north to Black Rock at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa. Park your car at the Hyatt, stroll out to the beach, take your shoes off, and leisurely walk north along the powder-like sand. Just this one mile might take you several hours, because the kids will find so much to see and do along the way. It’s a great place to watch surfers, swimmers, boats, parasailers, snorkelers, and even the occasional drone buzzing through the air. Off in the distance, you can see the islands of Lanai and Moloka’i. If you’re there in early spring, it’s a prime spot to view humpback whales. Once you reach the Black Rock area, you can rinse the sand off your feet, put your shoes back on, and walk back on the boardwalk, where you can gawk at the resort and condo complexes. Stop in at Whaler’s Village for a bite to eat, or some shopping. Ka’anapali Beach is, by far, the most beautiful beach my family has ever had the pleasure to walk on.