Let me let you in on a little secret: Just because you may love outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, backpacking or biking doesn’t mean your kids will, too. At least not right away.
Like many things in parenthood, it takes a little effort, patience and flexibility on your part to help nurture a love of all things outdoor. The good news is that sharing the wonders of nature with your children will pay off down the road. I can personally assure you of that.
So how can you help make outdoor adventures fun for your kids from the start?
Set Realistic Goals
When it comes to kids and outdoor adventures, more time and/or distance does not necessarily equal more fun. Once your children are walking or riding on their own, readjust your adventuring goals to be more kid friendly. Ask yourself how much time or distance your least enthusiastic participant will be able to enjoy, and plan accordingly.
Go with Friends
This is one of the best ways my husband and I have found to keep our kids engaged and having fun. It seems that even at the tender age of five, kids complain far less when others their age are around.
Focus on the Journey
Earlier this summer my five year old and his friend had an amazing wildlife encounter while hiking. A butterfly landed on one of their walking sticks! The two kids were completely mesmerized and had no intention of moving one step further.
I doubt my son will remember how far we walked or even where we wound up that morning. But he’ll remember how cool it was to see a butterfly up close. And that, to me, is success.
Try Something New, Together
Sure, you love backpacking. But have you been caving? Or gone geocaching? Trying a new adventure as a family is a great way to get everyone on board. Make sure to involve everyone in deciding what new activity to try. Or choose a few different things to try over the course of several months.
Choose Your Destinations Wisely
Case in point: I enjoy hiking, even if only in a giant loop around a meadow or for a fantastic view. The kids? Not so much. They need a little something extra to keep them motivated, like a waterfall or a river; even a fun spot to play along the trail will do.
Keep ’Em Comfortable
Whatever gear your outdoor activity of choice requires, get some for the kids. Their comfort is too important to skimp on.
And don’t underestimate the power of a great snack, especially the kind you don’t normally dole out at home. They make a great incentive if kids start to tire—and an equally wonderful reward for achieving a goal.
Don’t Give Up!
In spite of all your best efforts, I promise you will have a day when things go badly: Your child throws a tantrum, refuses to walk another step or swears he or she will never, ever accompany you on said adventure again. Don’t panic. This has happened to the best of us. Rest up, and head outside again another day.
do you make outdoor adventures fun for the entire family?
Written by Debi Huang, a Los Angeles–based wife, mom and adventure guide for two young boys. Her blog at Go Explore Nature is all about getting kids and families outdoors and connected to nature in the backyard and beyond.