Exploring the Outdoors: How to Make a Family Adventure
Do your kids like to play outside?
Are you looking for ways to get your kids more interested in nature?
More About This Show
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!
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
- Connect with Eugene Buchanan on his websites: Paddling Life.net and Recreating with Kids or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Read Eugene’s book: Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids: A Guide to Getting Your Kids Active in the Great Outdoors.
- Find out more about Boulder, Colorado and what outdoor activities it has to offer.
- Discover a few of the places that Eugene has explored with his family: San Juan River, Peek-a-Boo Canyon in Utah and Rails to Trails in South Dakota.
- Take a look at the Outdoor Industry Association‘s reports.
- Check out the US Forest Service for local trails in your area.
- Discover what these outdoor initiatives have to offer: Great Outdoors Month, National Trails Day, National Fishing Week and The Great American Backyard Campout.
- Find suitable guided adventures for your family: REI’s Outdoor School, O.A.R.S and your local National commercial outfitters.
- Learn how to have a glow-in-the-dark bowling adventure.
Ways to subscribe to the Parenting Adventures podcast:
What do you think? What are your thoughts on letting your kids experience the great outdoors? Please leave your comments below.
Images from iStockPhoto.
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 Michael Stelzner »