Growing up in Southern Ontario, I always thought of March as maple syrup season.  Now having just come out of the grasp of winter, I was excited about getting the family outdoors for the first warm (above freezing) weekend in March.

The night before the outing, we did some quick internet searches to find a local maple sugar bush / maple syrup “farm”.  We decided on a place close by, then told the kids of our plan.  We have two kids under 4 years of age, and they were both excited to go see where maple syrup comes from.  Then we prepared a daypack, got cash and directions to the farm.

Before we left on the morning of the outing, our youngest got a case of the runs.  But, having already promised our older child that we were going, we turned it into a father-daughter outing.  We promised mommy that we’d take lots of pictures.

We arrived at the farm, met up with our cousins, purchased tickets for the tractor hay ride to the forest, and started the tour.  The tour consisted of several “stations” where people dressed in period costumes demonstrated how maple syrup was made during different time periods from the Native Americans, to pioneers, and up to the modern era.  The kids enjoyed walking through the forest, but interest was often lost at some of the stations because of too much “big people talking”.  Kids over the age of 6 had no problems sitting and listening.  The kids did enjoy the maple toffee on a stick made by pouring hot maple syrup across snow, and rolling it up with a stick as it cooled.  When the tour ended, we got back on the tractor hay ride, and arrived back at the farm to enjoy a pancake breakfast with, of course, maple syrup.  After the meal, we bought some maple coffee and maple syrup to take home.

I was sad that we couldn’t have done the entire outing as a family, but as most parents of young children know, this stuff happens.  We had a fun time together, and hopefully next year, everyone will be healthy to go on the tour.

Maple Syrup Tour Tips

Getting outdoors with children under 5 can often be a challenge, but don’t let that discourage you parents of younger children from getting outdoors.  Here I will discuss some tips to have an enjoyable time (for everyone).

1) Plan ahead. Know where you are going, the facilities available, how much it will cost (parking, tour, eating, rides, etc), and the hours of operation.

2) Know your childrens’ limits.  If nap time is 12:30-2 every day, then don’t arrive at noon and expect your child to go on a tour without a meltdown or falling asleep on you.  Likewise, if you are out on a tour and your little dear starts misbehaving or becomes disinterested, it’s time to move on.  Find something else to do, or quietly part from the tour group.  The day may not go according to plan, but cutting a tour short is better than negativity associated with a tour full of yelling, threats and tantrums.

3) Bring cash.  Not all farms or tours take plastic.  Some tours offer maple treats for a small fee, so be sure to bring smaller bills or coins.  It’s not good to promise your child a sugary treat only to find out the confectionary shack can’t break a $20.

4) If your child is potty training, don’t give them a sippy cup before going on the tour.  There’s most likely no facilities in the forest, and the thought of going behind a tree can embarass some sensitive kids into having an accident.  Take your child to the potty before going on the tour!

5) Be prepared for the weather.  Carry a bag or backpack with extra socks and mittens.  Dress the kids in splash pants (or snow pants), appropriate boots, and a warm coat.  Even 5oC weather can make a small kid cold long before an adult feels cold.  There’s most likely going to be mud in a maple forest in March, so be sure to dress for the day.  Adults should wear rain boots, or something with ankle support like work boots or hiking boots.

6) Buy some product on the farm.  Your kids just learned how maple syrup is made, and they will be excited to bring some of that goodness home.  The purchase supports the local economy, and your kids will remember the trip every time they eat pancakes.  Also, bring some home for family or friends who could not attend the tour.

7) Take lots of pictures or videos.  Family and friends would love to see pictures of your little darlings.

8) Bring a positive attitude.  It’s healthy, your kids will respond in a positive way, and if something doesn’t go according to plan, or your kid has a meltdown, don’t let it bother you.  Accept it.  It happens to every parent.  Stay positive and give hugs.