Tips and Motivation to Help You Get the Whole Family Off and Into the Wilderness!
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul.” -John Muir
Excited to start cultivating memories with your children in the outdoors? But feeling overwhelmed with where to start? Or do you have doubts on how to get them interested? I am here to help you find ways to get your family outside by simplifying the process, helping with ideas and motivation, as well as tips and tricks to help things go smoother so you can enjoy more memories.
1) With younger kids...Start small with realistic expectations and be patient! We want to cultivate positive memories.
You may love charging up a 14’er but your 3 year old may make it two steps from the car and want to play in the dirt. Yes, your abilities and objectives are different. But if you want to one day have an avid trail buddy it is necessary to spark positive memories of these experiences early. So, get down on their level...ask them questions, play with them...then nudge them along.
Let go of expectations and enjoy the moment. After years of consistent adventures they will grow and be capable of more and more. Also, there is so much sensory stimulation available in the outdoors that it is an incredible learning opportunity for your child. They learn to problem solve by navigating over rocks and trails, experiment with different textures, and can create imaginative play opportunities by turning your adventure into a story.
Give positive reinforcement for their achievements whether it is helping carry snacks, meeting a goal distance, or discovering a caterpillar cocoon. Celebrate their accomplishments and discoveries and document them with photos, creating scrapbooks or new nature collections. You never know that rock collection might lead to a future geologist!
With older kids...
If you didn’t start your kids early, it is never too late! Again, start with a small goal and ask them to get involved. Ask them to look over photos and maps and help them choose and plan the adventure. Their fitness levels may vary-it is key to be patient and foster a positive encouraging attitude. Help them see that the adventure and scenery can help the miles pass much faster than they ever imagined.
They will also feel independent and empowered to take part in the planning and process. As the adventure will provide opportunities for growth in your child by fostering opportunities for risk and overcoming self-doubts and the unknown. This can be tough age and the confidence, self-awareness and self-assurance. Not to mention fringe benefits like a screen detox, physical fitness and stress relief. As with the littles be patient, accepting and encouraging. This is also a great time to encourage independence...encourage your teen to hike out ahead...build their own shelter to sleep in or paddle the lake solo. This will help them feel strong and assertive in the world as they become adults.
2) Come prepared and then some...
You thought your child ate a lot at home, well buckle up for when you are camping out or tackling a trail. Pack a bountiful amount of food. Hanger is not something you want derailing your epic family journey. They key here for all ages are snacks that are energy (calorie dense) yet light and packable. Snacks ideas include:
nut butter packets
bars of various types
Plenty of water is crucial too! You can have each child carry their own water bottle or hydration pack and emphasize how strong and grown up they are! ;) If your kids are younger you will probably want to carry a heavier pack with extra water and snacks. You can also consider a personal water purification plan (see below) to take advantage of streams with less weight...especially if you end up carrying that kiddo later in the day.
For camping meals the sky's the limit if you are car camping! You can choose to cook over the fire or the stove. Check out Rugged Running’s FB and Instagram for ideas! This is another opportunity to get your child involved. Littles can help prep and clean up and older kids can help, cook, serve, clean up etc. You can help plan the menu with all ages and see the delight when they get to feast on something they picked out and helped with.
When backpacking you want to get food that won’t smash in your pack and that is as light as possible and calorie dense to the max. Individual mess kits are great and each child can help with carrying and cleaning their own mess kit. They can even decorate it before the trip to feel super special by making them individualized.
You can purchase Dr. Bronner’s biodegradable soap for washing dishes and yourself too (it does it all and is kind to the body and earth). You will want to invest in a small lightweight backpacking stove and lightweight camp cookware. There are so many options to fit every family size and budget. You also need a way to clean water. You can opt to use water purification tablets like chlorine dioxide or iodine...or you can invest in a portable water purification device. There are larger options that can filter large quantities or small screw on bottle filters that purify one bottle at a time...do some research and see what is best for your family. These things also make great gifts that you can put on your holiday lists that go beyond the item...they power the memories!
3) More ways to prepare...Gear!
There are so many gear options out there and it can get excessive and overwhelming. First of all you don’t need to spend a fortune to get your family outside! Financial restraints should not keep people from enjoying the great outdoors! You can sort out what is essential and is not. You can also look into used gear (there are outdoor consignment shops, online garage sales etc) Another option is to look at the investment you make in the outdoor gear as one that pays years of dividends. Think about it, that one really good tent could last a decade and serve as a hotel bill replacement-if you factor those costs into account it is actually a really solid investment in your family!
Here are some essential simple recommendations for day trips:
Good shoes with traction and cushion
Sleeping pad/bag (s)
Camping stove or cast iron cookware for the fire
gallon jugs for water if potable water not available or water purification
personal items like tp, sanitizer, biodegradable dish soap,sunscreen, toiletries.
first aid kit
cooler if wanting to keep certain items cool, you can opt to take dry backpacking type food otherwise
Other recreational items you might want to do, ideas include: fishing poles, rock climbing gear, bikes, cornhole, glow sticks, paddle boards, journals, etc.
Light weight stove/fuel
tent (preferably light weight)
backpacking compressable sleeping bags and pads
light weight cookware
biodegradable dish soap
light weight frame packs for everyone carrying gear, day pack for others
only the clothes you need!*
first aid kit
shovel for the poo
light weight toiletries
hand sanitizer galore
consider emergency bivys if going into remote areas
*Try to stay away from cotton it never dries!