Over the last few years I’ve heard so many parents and friends say that they want to get their kids outside more. Yes, yes, yes! A new year is here and it’s the perfect time to set a goal of getting your kids outside more often. That’s exactly what this website is all about! Let’s make this a year of outdoor adventure, together. I’m here to share some tips for getting kids outdoors more this year, and every year to come.
Getting outside regularly and doing things together as a family has made a huge positive impact on our lives. For us, getting outside is now more of a pleasure than a chore. However, I know it isn’t that way for everyone. And that’s not to say it’s always easy for us – sometimes it takes hours just to get out the door! But it’s always worth it in the end.
Adopting new ideas and trying new things takes time, research, trial and error. Believe me, we’ve been erring for years! The more we pushed boundaries and tried new things, the more confident we became and it got easier to get outside. Not all our adventures are successful – we’ve had our share of ruined outings, meltdowns and horrible experiences. But we learn from our mistakes and they’re funny to think back on now. Even unsuccessful outings are worth it, because we learn something new and know what to do differently next time.
What I can guarantee is that you will never regret making a commitment to getting outdoors more. Plus, your children will benefit in ways you never imagined or expected. We want to make getting outside easier for you and make your time spent outdoors more pleasant. We want to share some ideas with you on how to turn your goal of getting outside a reality. Some of these ideas are tried and true by our family and some of these nuggets of wisdom are from other outdoorsy nature-loving moms. We hope this is inspire you to get outside and let your kids run wild this year!
Set a goal, but start small
If you’d like to get outdoors with the kids more, set a goal that’s reasonable and achievable. If you jump in with the goal of getting outside 4 hours a day, every day of the week, chances are you will fail and it will be miserable. Kids (and adults) need time to get used to new things, so start small.
Maybe the first goal is to get outside (for any length of time) three times a week. You can start right in your own backyard and venture further out from there. If you’re a planner, come up with some fun games or activities that the kids can do outside. Pinterest is great for this! If you have a “go with the flow” personality, let the kids dictate your adventures and activities. Either way, allow the kids to explore on their own a bit with you close by. This fosters independence, boosts curiosity and builds confidence.
Once you’ve mastered your first goal of just getting outside, increase the time you spend outdoors. The more you and the kids are outside, the less intimidated you’ll be by bad weather, new locations, or even the ever-dreaded “boredom” routine. Your kids might surprise you by not needing to be constantly entertained. Your children’s imaginations and creativity will surprise you when they’re outside with “nothing” to do and have to come up with something clever to play.
Make yourself accountable
If you’re intimidated by the outdoors or need some additional motivation to get outside, enlist help! There’s nothing like having a friend to get you through some of the initial hurdles and make it less scary. Set up playdates with mom friends outdoors and let the kids explore together. Take turns checking out new parks, new trails or new activities. Join a local Hike it Baby chapter and tag along on a group hike with other moms and kids. Sign the kids up for a nature class at your local conservation area, botanical garden or science center. Look into Tinkergarten or similar outdoor class for kids. Buy that Groupon for a round of golf, scuba diving certification, ziplining or kayak rental. Sometimes just making plans and having accountability can encourage you to get out of your comfort zone easier.
Prep ahead of time
Sometimes half the battle of spending time outdoors is just getting dressed, packed and out of the house. Anything we can do to make this process easier buys us more time outside, having fun. Here are a few suggestions for getting as much prepped, packed and ready ahead of time for your outdoor adventures:
- Have a dedicated “outdoor” backpack filled with all the things you need for your outdoor adventures (sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, water, sunglasses, hats, diapers/wipes, dry socks, extra gloves, binoculars, magnifying glass, trash bag, etc.). Keep it stocked and by the door ready to go when you are.
- Keep a full change of clothes for each kid in the car. That way if they want to play in the creek or splash in the waves at the beach while you’re out and about, they don’t have to drive home in wet clothes (or naked).
- Pack a picnic lunch the night before so you can stay outside longer instead of rushing home to eat. Just eating meals outside will increase the time you spend outdoors. However, even though fresh air and exercise can increase your appetite, don’t expect kids to be able to sit for very long outside to eat. Outdoor meals are usually short and sweet so the kids can get right back at it as quick as they can.
Invest in good gear
You don’t have to spend a fortune on name brand items, unless you’re spending an abundance of time outside in extreme temperatures. However, a rain jacket, snow suit, hats, gloves and boots can make a huge difference in attitude and excitement about being outdoors in bad weather. You are much more likely to get outdoors and stay out if your kids are properly outfitted in gear that keeps them cool, dry, warm, comfortable, etc. While being stuck inside for a day or two during bad weather is fine, sometimes that’s when everyone needs to get out of the house the most. There are different adventures to be had in all kinds of weather. Having the right gear will help you enjoy all the seasons your area has to offer and gives you fewer excuses to use the weather as a deterrent to outdoor play.
Mom tip: A great place to find quality outdoor gear is resale/second-hand shops. Obviously it depends on inventory, but good quality gear usually lasts longer than kids stay that size. That means you can find some really great gently used items for less than half the retail price.
Create a backyard outdoor space
If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space that you can spruce up for outdoor fun, make the most of it. Kids don’t need acres of woods or miles of beaches to immerse themselves in nature. Kids can connect with nature in their own backyard. Whether it’s because I’m busy cooking dinner, the little one’s napping inside or we just don’t have enough time to get away, sometimes our daily outdoor time is spent entirely in our (very small) backyard. And that’s ok!
Here are a few things you can do/set-up in your backyard to ensure hours of fun:
- Set up a slackline for the kids to practice walking/balancing on
- Fill a waterproof bin with outdoor fun equipment: whiffle balls and bats, plastic golf clubs, tennis balls and rackets, Frisbees, hula hoops, bubbles, sidewalk chalk and other outdoor games and activities
- Set up a craft table or easel outside so your kids can draw, paint, craft or do homework in the fresh air
- Assemble a tent in the backyard and let the kids play “camping”
- Plant a garden or put some potted plants outside for the kids to care for
- Create an outdoor kitchen, complete with dishes and utensils for creating the most delicious mud pies
- Set up a sandbox, filled with beach toys, shovels, scoops and buckets
- Hang a hammock or swing for the kids to play on
Find your interest
If you’re just starting to get into outdoor activities, you may be overwhelmed by just how many things there are to do. Don’t feel like you have to do them all right away. There’s no master outdoor bucket list that you have to make your way through. There’s no requirement that your kids try everything activity under the sun. Start with activities that interest you (or the kids) and branch out from there. For example, if you like going for walks, try hiking through the woods or geocaching. If you like animals, give horseback riding a try. Love the water? Try kayaking or canoeing. If you’re lucky enough to find an outdoor activity that you and your kids all absolutely love, free free to pursue that as much as possible. Starting with activities that you enjoy will build up your confidence being outdoors and you can always expand from there.