5 Easy Hikes for Kids in Maui

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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.

Walking for a New Camp

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In just a few weeks, I will begin walking the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path in Northern England, along with 11 other dads. We are raising money to open a new Camp Kesem chapter at the University of Maryland in honor of our friend Oren Miller, who passed away last year. Camp Kesem is a free summer camp for kids that have been impacted by a parent’s cancer.

At Kesem, each child is given a special name tag during their stay. I have seven of these blank tags to bring with me on our week-long hike. For each day of the hike, I would like to wear the name of someone you know who has battled cancer or is currently fighting cancer.

In order for me to wear the name, donate at least $100 through our dads4kesem.org fundraising site. Make sure you list in the comments the name you want me to wear, or send a message to me directly. I will take pictures and video during the hike while wearing the name tag, and will honor your loved one’s memory all that day.

Thanks for any donation you can make. It will be greatly appreciated by the kids who get to spend a week at Camp Kesem.

Eat Your Worries

It’s been a long time since a stuffed animal has impressed me, and that’s going back at least 5 years when my daughter went through a significant Webkinz phase.

But the cutest little creature recently showed up on my doorstep.

Worry EaterHis name is Flint. He’s missing an eye, has crooked horns and stubby feet, and sports a zipper for a mouth.

And he’s here to eat your worries.

Flint is one of the Worry Eaters, the colorful family of cuddly creatures that can help a child express their fears and concerns in a playful way.

Children are able to write or draw their worry and place it into Flint’s wide zippered mouth, so he can munch on it for awhile. It’s a great way to start a discussion with your kids about the things that are weighing on their mind. Even parents can get in on the act by sharing a worry or two and letting the Worry Eater hold on to it for awhile.

No matter how big or small the worry, it’s good to acknowledge that a problem exists. Giving their worry to a Worry Eater, and then sharing it with a parent or caregiver, is the first step that kids can take toward resolving conflicts and developing healthy coping skills.

Introduced by The Haywire Group, the Worry Eaters come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, guaranteed to be cute, cuddly, and very hungry. There are nearly two dozen to choose from, with names like Biff, Polli, Flamm, Saggo, and Pomm.

And choose you will, if you win my Worry Eater Giveaway!

Use the widget below to enter in several different ways. The winner will get to pick their very own Worry Eater to bring home. See the entire family of them here. All Worry Eaters are washable, either by hand or on machine gentle cycle, and made with quality soft velour. They don’t just eat worries, but they’re also pretty good snugglers.

No matter how big or small the worries, they are all important in the life of a child. Parents can help kids learn to manage stress and tackle everyday problems with ease using Worry Eaters as a tool.

Enter now, and I’ll pick a winner in about a week!

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Worry Eater Family

Baseball History for Kids

Babe Ruth

Opening day is less than three weeks away.

April 3rd is that glorious spring day when the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd gives hope to fans of every team that this will be their year.

The sights and sounds that give rise to that eternal hope have been ingrained in the American experience since 1845, when Alexander Cartwright laid down the first set of rules for the modern game of baseball.

For me, the great thing about baseball is the way kids pick up the essentials of the sport and learn to play it.

The game is simple. Throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball, run!

Baseball may remain a relatively simple game, but the history of it has been anything but.

Baseball History for KidsRichard Panchyk’s new book, Baseball History for Kids offers a fascinating look at baseball’s complex and fascinating transformation into a professional sport that is now played all over the world. The author takes young readers through key eras and events of the game with engaging descriptions, highlighted by firsthand interviews with more than 175 greats of the game.

It’s a fun book to read, with loads of photos and interesting sidebar stories. The author makes frequent comparisons between the past and present, such as the fact that facial hair on players was unheard of for most of the 20th century. Or how today’s minimum major league salary is one hundred times higher than it was in the 1950s. Or that during the “dead ball era,” the 1902 National League home run champion had just six homers, all of them inside-the-park.

But the biggest kick you and your kids will get out of this book will be the 19 hands-on activities peppered throughout each chapter. They’re an engaging way for you to introduce the game of baseball to your children. Sit down and build a miniature version of your favorite stadium, or cook up some homemade Cracker Jack. Hold a contest to see who can throw a ball the farthest or the closest to a target. Teach your kids to keep score and to throw a palm ball.

This book is packed with fun activities to share with your kids. In fact, it’s going to be as much fun for you as it will be for them. You’ll easily pass along your love for baseball, while also sparking an interest in the history of our country. This book can be a gateway to further learning about World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and the growth of the American West.

Thanks to the good folks at Chicago Review Press, I just happen to have a copy of Baseball History for Kids to give away to one of my readers. Use the widget below, and I’ll pick a winner next week!

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Do You Want To Build A Snow Fort?

IMG_5229Do you want to build a snowman?

Well, no, not really.

Actually, my kids would rather build a snow fort.

A huge, awesome, epic snow fort. Big enough to fend off an army of snow goons and abominable snowmen.

Some people view winter as a time to avoid outdoor activities. If they aren’t skiers, then they prefer to curl up next to a warm fire on a comfy couch, hibernating through the cold and snow until spring brings them out into the sun again.

That’s too bad, because winter can be filled with awesome family fun. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, and it can even be right in your own backyard. Getting outside in the snow is a great time to make memories with your kids.

Especially the planning and construction of your very own snow fort.

Call it an igloo, or an ice palace, or a snow fort. Whatever it is, go beyond stacking up some snow, sticking a carrot in it, and calling it Frosty. Hey, building a snowman is fun, too, but an actual structure takes a lot more imagination. And, at the end, it becomes functional.

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My kids and I built this snow fort using a smooth plastic storage box to create blocks of tightly packed snow. We then stacked them up to about 4 feet, making parapets, windows, and secret doors along the way. They improvised as they built, and learned a few lessons about structural integrity. The nice thing about snow, you can change things up any time you want.

After a few hours, the kids had the idea to sleep in the fort that night, which they did, under a pile of quilts and blankets. I stayed out there with them, enjoying the warmth and comfort of our hand-built shelter.

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But as nice as it was, and as tough as I like to think I am, I would not have made it through the night without some help from Fisherman’s Friend, the strongest, most effective throat lozenge on the market. Originally formulated in 1865 for the deep-sea fishermen of Fleetwood, England, these extra strong, extra soothing lozenges are perfect for cough and cold relief. It’s exactly what you need to tough it out during the long winter months, when the cold wind seems to blow right down your throat every time you open your mouth.

I’ll never buy another brand of lozenge when I have a cough or cold. Fisherman’s Friend is the perfect all-natural menthol relief, available in cherry flavor and sugar free formula. They’re perfect for anyone over the age of 2 in need of instant relief of sore throats, coughs and congestion.

Whatever you do during the winter months, make sure you get outside. Build a snow fort! Okay, build a snowman too. Ski, snowshoe, dig tunnels, play disc golf, have a snowball fight. Just get outside and enjoy the snow. Carry a packet of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges and you’ll be tough enough to do anything.

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Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Fisherman’s Friend for this promotion.

Family Vacation to Mt. St. Helens Volcano Monument

Mt St Helens

I will never forget that day in 1980 when a mountain in Southwestern Washington suddenly exploded with the force of several nuclear bombs. The deadliest volcanic event in U.S. history laid waste to hundreds of square miles around Mt. St. Helens.

It sounds like an unlikely destination for a family vacation. But, in fact, the Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument in Washington is an amazing place to spend a day with kids. From areas of utter devastation to hidden hollows teeming with new life, a trip to Mt. St. Helens will be both fascinating and educational.

====> Continue reading my article at TripAdvisor’s Family Vacation Critic blog.

The Power of Kindness

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I sat in the darkness of the living room, anxiously waiting for the roof of our house to be peeled away by the storm raging outside.

That night, we experienced the most destructive wind storm in our area for at least the past 100 years. Four people died, thousands of trees were split or uprooted, hundreds of buildings were damaged, and over a million people lost power.

No, our roof didn’t blow away. It sure sounded like it might. We only lost one tree in our backyard, a 20-foot Austrian Pine that was pushed over to a ridiculous 45-degree angle.

We were lucky. Many were not. Our power was back on within 8 hours, but other families in our town were told that they would be without it for days, even weeks. And this at a time when temperatures were dipping to below freezing at night.

At about this same time, my family was asked by KIND Snacks to seek out kindness in our community. It’s always been KIND’s mission to make the world a little kinder, and they now wanted our help in celebrating the art of being kind. We spotted the usual random acts of kindness all over town: donating food, holding doors for others, volunteering, drivers allowing other cars to pull in front of them. We found that kindness was all around us, working its magical powers in little ways.

But after that wind storm, suddenly kindness reared its beautiful head in a big, big way.

Everywhere in our community, people realized that their friends, neighbors, and even strangers were in need of some major and very specific acts of kindness. I saw groups of people rallying to deliver hot meals to those without power. I saw men with chainsaws offering to remove massive fallen trees from yards. I saw friends opening up their homes to those who needed a warm place to sleep for a few days.

Kindness is a beautiful thing. It enriches both the giver and the recipient. How can you not go through your day without naturally choosing to do the kind thing?

When KIND Snacks asked us to recognize kindness in our community, I had no idea that we would witness such an overwhelming number of people being compassionate and giving. I love that KIND has been on a mission since day one to inspire and celebrate just this sort of behavior. Time after time, this company has stepped up to lead by example. Just last summer, KIND donated 40 boxes of their snack bars to our local food bank, where they were much needed and appreciated.

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KIND continues to find new and fun ways to help spread kindness. Today, their #kindawesome campaign allows anyone to go online to recognize an act of kindness. Simply visit howkindofyou.com to nominate someone when you spot them doing a kind act.

As we saw in the aftermath of the wind storm, kindness has the power to ease a burden, brighten a day, and maybe even save a life. That’s the kind of power I want to help spread. If you have a story of kindness, big or small, that has affected you, I’d love to read it in the comments.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and KIND Snacks for this promotion.

Photo courtesy of KREM-TV

The Afterschool Special Snack

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One of the greatest challenges of my years of parenting has been keeping up with my kids’ everchanging interests and moods. Their likes and dislikes seem to vary from week to week.

Especially when it comes to snacks.

Once upon a time, when my son was a toddler, a simple bag of baby carrots would keep him happy in between meals. As he grew older, his tastes became more complicated. And then simple. And then complicated. Continue reading

Let Your Kids Get Dirty

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Maytag. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Kids are filthy.

There’s just no getting around that fact. From toddlers to teens, your kids are going to find all sorts of different ways to dirty themselves up. Parents should be patient and remember that a little bit of dirt, or maybe a lot of it, isn’t going to hurt. In fact, getting dirty can be quite fun. Continue reading

Family Vacation to Spokane

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When you tell people you’re visiting Washington State, they usually conjure up images of majestic mountains, rugged coastlines, or the urban beauty of Seattle. Most people forget there’s an entire eastern half of the state that has a number of cool and unique places to visit.

On the far eastern edge of Washington is the city of Spokane, which is well worth exploring for a few days if you find yourself traveling on Interstate 90, and especially if you have kids, because Spokane (the “e” is silent, by the way) is a very kid-friendly town.

====> Continue reading my article at TripAdvisor’s Family Vacation Critic blog.