When we all think back to our young rambunctious day, memories of summer and the adventures we went or were taken on ususlly rise to the top. Many of the people who routinely visit and recreate in the outdoors have the benefit of having been taken outside by their parents or guardians from a young age. Having said that, taking a pack of kids out on a day of fun very often turns to misery and contemplations if handing them a tablet of sticking a binky in their mouths is not a better bargain.
Here are a few tips making a trip outdoors this summer enjoyable.
Plan but don't over-plan: Packing a sleeping bag and a water filter and hitting the road with the mantra "mother earth will provide" will only end in misery when taking a family out. The basics must be covered: Distance to location, Parking, Bathrooms, and a general lay of the land. I highly recommend covering primarily the basics rather than planning the entire day out. Itenaries sometimes get in the way and end up cutting short a good time and shortchanging the littles ones as they bond with each other and the outdoors. We have a rule that we don't leave to the next thing, just to do the next thing if we are still having fun with the current thing.
Pack snacks and then more snacks: If America runs on Dunkin, kids run on snacks. I am willing to wager you can bribe a kid to hike the Appalachian trail with an impressive assortment of snack. Some kids have the inner motivation to explore, however, most kids have not yet developed the sense of wonder we adults experience in the outdoors, neither do they have the attention span for a full day of singular activities outside. You can however optimize this experience by constantly topping them with different snacks. One time we went to hike the trails at Harpers Ferry with our 3 year old, we forget her carrier and the smart time would have been to turn around. We didn't, because we did not forget the snack bag and by golly we made it to the summit.
Involve them in decision making: It is essential that you find out the things that interest the little munchkins. Their minds are growing so fast, and like us they are bombarded with so much information that there are many things they would love to see. It could be anything from a waterfall, to a sand dune, it could be a half pipe, or a royal Tern. Let them help decide where to go, what snacks to take, when to take a break, and when to call it a day.
Adjust your mindset: Somehow we have trained our minds to forget any of the miserable times we have had outdoors. The episodes of sunburn, bug bites, death marches and such, those parts of our experiences have been expunged. We instead construct these rosy experiences we expect to have with the kids and end up disappointed or overwhelmed when the day crumbled. We must accept that this is the price we must pay to have better days in the future. Ask any family that goes skiing with kids, you have to bundle them up, pack their equipment, pack food, get them dressed in frigid temperatures, only for them to ask if we can go home half way up the first lift ride. Mindset is everything and it gets better with consistency.
Reward: Nothing wrong with bribes to hike that extra mile or make one last run, especially when there’s a reward like ice cream!
Fall more in love with the outdoors: The final tip is to go out more, personally. We can not give what we don't have and we keep what we have by getting more. Make time to explore the outdoors more and build your love for it and your lids and family will see and draw motivation from that. There is no easy way to get out there, theres just the doing and thats how memories are made.