Exploring the Outdoors: How to Make a Family Adventure

podcast iconDo your kids like to play outside?

Are you looking for ways to get your kids more interested in nature?

To learn how to have amazing outdoor adventures with your kids, I interview Eugene Buchanan for this episode of the Parenting Adventures podcast.

More About This Show

parenting adventures podcast michael stelzner

The Parenting Adventures podcast is a show from My Kids’ Adventures.

It’s for parents (and grandparents) who are looking for creative things to do with their kids.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview Eugene Buchanan, author of Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids: A Guide to Getting Your Kids Active in the Great Outdoors.

Eugene is the former publisher of Paddler magazine. He’s covered the Beijing Olympics for NBC and written for ESPN, the New York Times, Men’s Journal and National Geographic Adventure, to mention a few. He also has a site called Recreating with Kids.

Eugene shares ways you can get your kids excited about exploring the great outdoors.

You’ll discover the advantages of exposing your kids to nature, how to get them interested in outdoor pursuits and where to start.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Listen Now

[powerpress]You can also subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Outdoor Adventures

How Eugene came to have a passion for kids and nature

Eugene explains how he grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where he had the mountains in his backyard.

He was one of six kids, who spent most afternoons outside until they were called in for dinner. Growing up surrounded by nature had such a huge impact on his childhood that it became his career.

He has been able to pass along his love for nature to his daughters, who are 11 and 15 years old. He and his family still live in Colorado, where they have many outdoor amenities at their disposal.

boulder colorado

Boulder, Colorado is nature’s playground.

When their first child was born, the birth announcement included a photo of all of their outdoor apparel and equipment, with a big for sale sign. This announcement was made with the perceived notion that once you become a parent, you don’t have time to enjoy the outdoors. In reality, he says, it has the opposite effect.

recreating with kids homepage

Eugene and his wife have embraced the great outdoors with their kids.

Listen to the show to find out how adventures in nature get better after you have kids.

Advantages when you expose your kids to nature

Eugene believes that nature creates an unrestricted play area for kids. When kids are outside, you can see their faces light up, and the huge smiles that go with it.

Although it does compete with technology, the best way to combat the predilection for screen time is just to get your kids out in nature and let it change their minds.

Eugene shares a few examples of when his kids were so in awe of nature that they didn’t even miss their electronic devices. One trip was on the San Juan River in Southern Utah, and the other was on an 80-mile sea kayak trip along the south coast of Crete in Greece.

sea kayak convoy

Sea kayaking is a great adventure for families to experience together. Image source: iStockphoto

Even though these trips were away from home, Eugene explains that you don’t need to travel far to experience nature. All you need to do is go outside and make nature a priority.

Listen to the show to discover ways to explore nature near your home.

How to hike with kids

To get started, all you have to do is go for a walk, visit your local park, go for a bike ride or hike on a nearby trail.

According to surveys from the Outdoor Industry Association, biking is one of the most popular outdoor activities for youths. Eugene explains that the reason kids love biking so much is that it’s their extension to freedom.

family riding bikes

Youths love to bike. Image source: iStockphoto

Eugene explains how hiking for his kids is a means to an end. He suggests that you don’t tout hiking as fun, but instead tout the destination as fun. You need to focus on where you are heading to, and see the hike as a way to get there.

You first need to start out with a one- or two-mile hike. Don’t ever force your kids to hike too far at the beginning, as it can discourage them. Instead, make the experience as fun as possible. Look at nature along the way, collect pinecones, play games, take breaks and have plenty of tasty snacks.

mountain trip

Make sure you take plenty of breaks during the hike. Image source: iStockphoto

When you hike with kids, a mile should take about half an hour or so. Adults alone can usually walk 3 or 4 miles an hour. If you’re hiking with another family, Eugene advises for you to let them go at their own pace.

outdoor parents outdoor kids

Eugene’s book Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids.

You’ll hear how to deal with different ages in your group so nobody gets left behind.

Eugene advises in his book Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids that any outdoor activity you do with your kids should be fun.

To find trails, look at your local resources. You can even check the site for the US Forest Service, which has many initiatives to get kids outdoors.

June is Great Outdoors Month, National Trails Day, National Fishing Week and The Great American Backyard Campout, where they encourage families to camp out in their backyard.

great american backyard campout

The Great American Backyard Campout’s goal is to get families to camp out.

Listen to the show to find out what you need to bring when you go on a hike with your kids.

How to get your kids excited about the wilderness

When Eugene’s kids were younger, he would take googly eyes and glue out on their hikes. When his kids found rocks, they would glue eyes on them and give the rock a face. The mantle over their fireplace is full of them as a reminder.

You can always let your kids pack a favorite toy for the hike, plus you could add a scavenger hunt along the way to keep them interested.

You’ll hear examples of how you can combine technology into the hike if it helps your kids get more excited about it.

If your kids are hesitant about going on a hike, Eugene suggests you show them photos before you go. His kids were a little hesitant to go to Peek-a-Boo Canyon at first, until he showed them pictures online. When they discovered it had a windy passage that looked like a fort, they were so excited. Sometimes kids just need to visualize the destination.

peekaboo canyon

Eugene’s kids were all fired up for the trip once they saw what was waiting for them.

One of the great life lessons that kids learn on the hikes is that when it gets tough, you just have to keep going.

Listen to the show to find out why it’s sometimes okay to bribe/reward your kids.

The next step after hiking

Eugene explains the many different levels of outdoor pursuits you can do with your kids. For example, hiking, backpacking, camping, climbing and river rafting.

The next step up from hiking is backpacking. It’s basically a hike with a camp over. Campfires and nighttime nature sounds are just two of the benefits.

For backpacking, Eugene suggests that you let your kids carry at least their own sleeping bag and some clothes, so they’re a little bit self-sufficient. As the parent, you’ll have everything else to carry, such as the tent, stove, food, water and other supplies, so you need to keep the hike short. One or two miles will be far enough.

camping mother and daughters

Let your kids experience camping. Image source: iStockphoto

You’ll hear what’s involved in car camping, which is a great way to expose your kids to the great outdoors without hiking to get there.

If you want to do a more adrenaline-based sport with your kids, then climbing and rafting are perfect.

Eugene advises that a great way to get your kids involved in climbing is to take them to a local climbing gym. That way you get your kids used to climbing and the equipment needed before you go rock-climbing outside. It’s also an opportunity for them to see how much fun it can be.

child climbing a wall

Let your kids experience rock climbing at a local facility. Image source: iStockphoto

If you live in a big city, you’ll hear other ideas on how to prepare your kids for outdoor pursuits. Don’t ever overlook what’s around you.

Listen to the show to discover more about guided day trips and overnight excursions, and the cost involved.

Parenting Adventures Tip

Glow-in-the-Dark Bowling

My Kids’ Adventures’ Jennifer Ballard and Kristin Ammerman share a fun activity that turns any night into a fun family adventure: glow-in-the-dark bowling.

All you need are six water bottles (labels removed), a mini-sports ball and glow sticks. You’ll also want a nice flat surface, indoors or outside, to use for your bowling alley.

glow in the dark bowling

Open the water bottles and pour out a little water. Next, activate and then insert the glow sticks. Your bowling pins are ready. Just set up your alley, and you’re ready to go.

For more variations on the activity, Kristin shares her indoor bowling experience. Plus, Jennifer explains how taking glow-in-the-dark bowling on an outdoor camping adventure led to even more fun.

Listen to the show to learn rules for glow-in-the-dark bowling.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on letting your kids experience the great outdoors? Please leave your comments below.

Images from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

I am a dad of three kids, the founder of My Kids' Adventures and the founder of Social Media Examiner. I also host the Parenting Adventures podcast. Other posts by »


  1. Great interview, Mike! I like the point Eugene makes that once you get the kids out in nature, they don’t really miss the electronics at all. I’ve seen that at our Cub Scout campouts over and over again.

    Thanks for adding the Parenting Adventures Tip. Kristin & I are having lots of fun and are excited to be part of the podcast.

  2. KJ Ammerman says:

    Great interview with Eugene. I like that he pointed out that we, as parents, should focus on the “prize” at the end of the hike. Like the waterfall or the lake or whatever cool thing they are hiking to rather than the hike itself. Kids can think of hiking as boring or tiring, but they’ll love it when they get out there with their snacks and can explore on the way to their awesome destination.

    PS – So jealous he lives in Steam Boat Springs! Cool town!!

  3. KJ Ammerman says:

    It is a lot of fun being a part of the podcast! :)

  4. Crystal Foth says:

    I love this new podcast Mike! So important to spend that quality time and know that it’s that important!! Thank you for all you do with the podcast and My Kids’ Adventures!!

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