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6 Ways to Include Your Kids on Outdoor Adventures

A family hiking through Arches National Park.

What happens when the dedicated outdoor enthusiast begins raising a family?

You might think that this is when the gear gets put away, the bikes and backpacks start collecting dust, and you get overly familiar with your sofa. Take heart: it does not have to be this way!

When families are just beginning, extracurricular adventures take an obvious backseat to raise babies keeping house, but once you’ve settled into a routine and the kids are school-aged, you’re ready to jump back into the action. Sharing your outdoor passion with your children could be the best step you take in life.

1. Start small

A kid looking through binoculars outside in the mountains.

Children thrive on routine, so introducing a new aspect of life is going to have to ramp up slowly. If your kids aren’t already familiar with a lot of outdoor adventure, starting small is the best course of action. Breaking routine is tough for anyone but can be especially hard on kids and parents alike.

Setting off with baby steps is the best way to engage your child in the wider world around them.  Set everyone up for success.  Minimize expectations and have fun with everyone. Bringing great snacks for everyone to enjoy helps make it memorable as well.

2. Keep them engaged

The best way to spark that passion within your kids, to share the enthusiasm for a given activity, is to give them a purpose. Give them something that connects them to the outdoors. You don’t need to strap them to your back and climb icy mountains to experience adventure. Try something milder at first. Take the kids flower picking, edible berry hunting, or even fishing.

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Short hikes around interesting terrain will get them looking under rocks, stepping into a creek, and asking to climb on everything. These are just a few loose ideas to engage kids with the outdoors. Knowing your own kids, you’ll be better able to choose the most appropriate activities.

3. Prepare them

Because kids need a steady routine, introducing the ideas and stories from your own adventuring can help pave the way for engagement and activity. Talk to them long before taking them outdoors and exploring. This will get their imagination running, giving context to thoughts of what it may be like out there.

Tell them stories of your past adventures, sharing the joy that they bring you. Help them understand how important it is for you, and they’ll be more than eager to join.

4. Place yourself in their shoes

A family hiking in the forest.

You need to see the great outdoor world in their shoes. Kids have zero interest in getting a great cardio workout or burning calories on a long biking trail. They want a landscape of wonder. They see the world as an unending mystery and bursting at the seams with real magic. You can work this into the way you build enthusiasm for the activities you include them in.

What’s the appeal for your children? Whatever the case may be, be sure to empathize with the perspective they bring to the world.

5. Pick days with great weather

It might seem silly, but this can mean the difference between a great formative experience and a miserable one for your children. Of course, it’s not realistic to demand great weather every day you want to explore the outdoor world. But you’re going to really increase your kid’s chances of enjoying the wild environment by picking a nice day.

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Even during the winter, you can find a moment of sunshine or hesitation in the wind. Aim to make that day into an adventure for the kids. Get them out there, absorb the sunlight and fresh air, and get going. Just being out there is a crucial first step.

6. Get them some gear

A family canoeing with beautiful weather as seen through a tent.

This one is almost a no-brainer. To the child, it’s like getting a new toy. Once they possess their own gear, imaginations run free toward the outdoors. Your children’s gear does not have to be top of the line – they will grow out of it anyway – so something as simple as a headlamp or hiking boots will get them excited.

A headlamp can even be used at home, letting the kids “camp” inside with a blanket tent, for example, revving their enthusiasm up. You know your child more than anyone else in the world, so get creative; you know what they’ll love.

With these tips and a bit of patience, you’ll soon have the whole family out on woodland treks and bicycle rides. They’ll graduate to camping, boating, and follow you into the more adventurous end of things, like skiing or rock climbing. When your children see and feel your enthusiasm for the natural world first-hand, they’ll become your biggest supporters and most eager apprentices. There’s nothing greater to bestow your children with than a healthy lust for life!

(c) 2015