The last few years we have made it a priority as a family to explore our area and enjoy as many outdoor adventures as possible. It is important for both children and parents to get outdoors in nature. A few benefits we have seen from doing this have been the creation of great memories together, a greater appreciation for the beautiful region we live in, more knowledge and familiarity with the plants and animals that grow and live around here. I also often notice a change in behavior and attitudes in the whole family when we spend time outdoors. Children that were bickering can suddenly be building rivers and dams peacefully together on the lake shore, a baby that was fussy will suddenly be calm, and a mother that was anxious and stressed can often find rest.
However, with four children, including toddlers and babies, the thought of getting everyone out the door can sometimes be challenging and feel overwhelming. There are so many things to think about and all the things to bring along! The more we continue to work at this goal the easier it becomes and the more little tricks I have found to simplify the process of getting everything organized and packed up for whatever our outing is going to be. We have done many types of outdoor adventures, including beach days at the lake, hiking, fishing, picnics and camping.
In this post I am going to share a few ideas to make getting out of the house and out into nature just a little bit easier, even with small children.
1. Plan ahead
Planning ahead means knowing where you are going and what you need to bring with you. If you haven’t yet explored your area much it would be good to do a little research before heading out. Ask your friends where the best lakes or beaches are that are good for kids, look up online for easy hikes, there are even Facebook pages that showcase local recreational activities. If you are in the local area the Northeast Washington Trails website has good information,
Another aspect of planning ahead is thinking through what you are going to need to bring, including any food you will need. I usually make a list especially if we are going camping otherwise I forget something. As you get more familiar with your area and gain more experience with what to pack you will find that the planning phase becomes easier and you can even do more last minute spur of the moment outings! My second tip makes it even easier to just head out the door…
2. Easy to grab bags or bins
When we have a baby we all have a diaper bag packed and ready to go with all the baby essentials. Well this is the same idea. A couple years ago I started keeping a swimming bag packed. It contained all the swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, bug repellent, sun hats, swim diapers etc. I keep it by the back door and whenever we decide to go to the lake I can just grab it and go. When the swimsuits get washed they go right back in the bag. We also have our nature bags with paints and journals for nature walks. This year I created a camping bin containing basic cooking utensils, spices, and non perishable food items. I store it in the garage. An other one I would like to make is a picnic basket.
3. Keep it Simple
We have discovered that with kids it is better to keep things simple, short enough and age appropriate. My children enjoy nothing better than playing for hours in sand and water no need for lots of complicated activities. Shorter hikes are better and a 1 or 2 night camping trip can be plenty. One year we went camping and planned to stay 3 nights. Everyone had a wonderful time but after the second night the children were tired, whiny and grumpy. We decided it was time to pack up and head home. They all slept on the ride home. Sometimes less is more!
Another area to keep simple for mom’s sanity is the food. I try not to bring any food that requires too much prep or that is too perishable. I do bring an ice chest but try to keep it small. For picnics we often bring sandwich supplies and just make them there or leftover pizza, or burritos. For camping hot dogs roasted over a fire or canned chili warmed up on a camp stove are great for dinners. Other easy camp foods that we commonly bring include potatoes, eggs and pancake mix.
4. Start getting ready earlier than you think you need to
In my life this pretty much applies no matter where I am going with my kids. It always takes longer than I expect. And I have some kids that need a lot of warning to get ready to go( and lots of time to gather all the things they want to bring). When I give myself and everyone else a little extra time to prepare, it definitely helps everything go more smoothly.
Bonus Tip: Just Do It
My last tip is to just make sure at least some kind of small adventure happens with your kids this summer. Don’t wait until everything is perfect or completely organized. Start small but start with something. It will get easier the more you practice!
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment! What are your favorite adventures with your children? Any other tips to share?