Getting out with the entire family can feel challenging at times, not only when you have to try and guess what Mother Nature has planned, but also how your kids are going to react to whatever the adventure entails.
Trust me when I say, I’m no exception. My kids, Tucker, 8, and Parker, 4, are out with me several times a week, if not every day! Spending so much time with them in the outdoors has taught me, as well as them, a lot! Here are some pointers I have for anyone who wants to get the kids out with them.
Dress Appropriately and have back-up clothes! Weather can change fast, having a sweatshirt, or a sun shirt, for when the weather change surprises you, can really help keep the kids comfortable.
Snacks Snacks Snacks!
Snacks can not only be used to help replenish energy but they can also be used as bribes for getting to the next mile marker.
Turn it into a mission or expedition. Often I empower my kids by saying, we’re going on a mission, and you guys are trying to do [fill in the blank]. This makes it seem like more of a game for them. Or they have an idea of what they are trying to overcome versus we are just walking to walk. Kids often need a bit more stimulation so this perspective helps them stay engaged.
Bring the tools and toys that will keep them engaged. My favourite is bionoculors.
Invest in child-sized water bladders. Stopping for water for multiple people multiple times can be tiring and really slow you down. We invested in the kids’ own water bladders and it saves us a ton of time, but also helps the kids stay hydrated without slowing the group down.
Hiking is one of the easiest ways to get your kids outside. It requires the least amount of investment and you can do it just about anywhere. Here are some tips that have set me up for success hiking with my kids:
Keep the mileage pretty low, or plan on being gone all day. Often we are pulling the kids along and we forget that the goal is for us all to get outside together, so if the kids want to splash around in the creek for an extra hour, take the time to enjoy the things they are excited about.
Have a set destination, when no one knows how far you’re really going, it can be hard to motivate or stay on schedule, but if you have a set place, it helps put the time-frame into place.
Pack a picnic — I can’t emphasize the importance of food/snacks on any family trip enough — you know you’re going to get that food later but kids seriously slow down when they are unsure when their next snack will be.
My son LOVES getting out on the bike. This activity is something that I really allow him to be the ‘leader on’ often. Having him ‘lead’ the way makes him more enthusiastic and engaged on the ride. Some other tips:
Helmets are always important; making sure the kids’ helmets are fitting properly and comfortable is key. Finding out they are uncomfortable in the middle of the ride can be challenging.
Bells and Whistles
my daughter enjoys having streamers, bells and so forth on her bike; giving the kids more accessories on the bike can help get them motivated and excited to be out riding.
First aid kit
Kids fall and scratch themselves up biking all the time. Nothing a little ointment and a bandage can’t fix, but often having them then and there on the ride can help get the kids back in action. Just watch they don’t start complaining about a ton of non-existent owies just to get tattooed with a million kid-friendly bandages (done that).
We are a family of whitewater paddlers so we spend a lot of time out on the river. The kids absolutely love being in their own kayaks, but I have to remind myself that at their age, it has very little to do with the actual kayaking and more about the overall experience. That means, bring water guns!
Invest in a good PFD — having a big bulky PFD (personal flotation device) leaves your kid feeling like a Stay Puft Marshmallow man, which isn’t necessary. Check out some different PFD options that will keep them safe and comfortable, and remember more flotation, or bigger, doesn’t mean safer. PFDs can be too big on the kids too.
When swimming or spending time on the water it’s really easy to get dehydrated because you never feel thirsty. Reminding the kids to drink is key when out on the water.
Dial up the fun factor
Water toys are always a ton of fun. Water guns, floaties, or anything that will engage them, go a long way. My daughter will often say she is tired of paddling and then I will bust out her little Barbie from my kayak and she will be good to go for another long period of time.
Water glare can really amplify sunburns, so be sure to lather up.
If you ever see us out together you’ll notice us goofing off and prioritizing “what will be fun for the kids,” and not getting caught up on reaching the top of the mountain. While overcoming hard obstacles together can be empowering, I have found focusing more on the experience itself has really provided me a solid platform to do more rad stuff with my kids.
They remember the experiences as being fun, rather than mom dragging them up the side of the mountain. This means we splash each other, we sing silly songs, we play animal guessing games and if we want to chill in a random spot to take in where we are together, we always do. By removing the pressure to perform from my kids, they have really blossomed on their own, and are often asking me, “hey Mom, when can we go on an adventure?”
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Photos by Heliconia
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