Getting outside with your family is always an adventure, big or small. This is the stuff memories are made of, so any effort is worth it.
Here are some families’ favourite ways to get outside with their kids, as simple as going for walks in the neighbourhood or as complicated as getting together gear for overnight camping trips.
Sarah-Jane Begonja of Chasing the Donkey loves to keep it simple and stay close to home. “Our family often goes for walks to pick locally grown, seasonal items – we have lots of room to explore as we live in a small Dalmatian village in Croatia.
Last year was very mild winter and then we were doused with big wet days — this made for the ultimate wild asparagus picking season!
Asparagus grows across Dalmatia, so we try to get in early and grab enough to cook up some wild asparagus and eggs.
Our family loves foraging, whether it be for snails, mushrooms, or wild asparagus. The challenge of finding your own food is really rewarding, plus kids love the thrill of the chase. In addition, it’s a good reason to get a little vitamin D.”
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Going to the Beach
“Our favourite way to get outside with our three-year-old son is to take him to the beach,” writes David Angel of Travel with Little One, “and it just so happens it’s his favourite way to get outside with us.
We live near Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, two hours up the coast from Sydney, and we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches. One of our favourites is Redhead beach, seven miles of gorgeous sand. Our son’s favourite part is the long boardwalk through the dunes, which he always runs. By the time he reaches the sand, he’s tired and asking Dad to carry him back along the beach to the car. He then miraculously perks up when he sees the kiosk selling ice cream.
Just beyond the end of this vast beach is a narrow channel linking the saltwater Lake Macquarie with the Pacific Ocean. On one side is a breakwater with a narrow gap with a wonderful sheltered tidal pool known locally as Granny’s Pool, a quiet, safe place for him to paddle and learn to swim.
Our other favourite local beach is across the channel below Swansea Heads lighthouse. It doesn’t have a name, but we love it for the adventures he has there, from climbing a tree with about 50 discarded shoes hanging from it to paddling in rockpools and searching for one of his favourite sea creatures, the starfish.”
Amber Hill and her husband, of Hill Tribe Travels, have always had a love of getting out into nature and enjoying a hike. “We’ve hiked in lots of cool places including to Mt Everest Base Camp and Patagonia. Hiking was always something we hoped our kids would also fall in love with – which I’m happy to say to date, they have. It is truly an activity that the family can all experience together, with no expensive equipment needed (a backpack, water and snacks is all we need. Oh, don’t forget tissues!). We spend our walks partly in silence listening to the birds, singing songs and running ahead and then jumping out and scaring each other. We always feel refreshed, alive and happy after we have been out in nature on a walk as a family.
We started with the kids when they were quite young – they were strapped to us in a front carrier and then we progressed to a backpack carrier. Now, even though they are both still young, they are good little walkers and we are finding we are able to start increasing the distance.
We are quite lucky around Melbourne as there are plenty of day trip options for a walk. Further afield, we have places including Marysville, the High Country and the kids favourites – Mt Buffalo and The Grampians. These are the kids favourites as they absolutely love those walks that have rocks to scramble up, over and under with some rock hopping across streams and great views at the top.”
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“Nature walks or hikes are one of our family’s favourite ways to get outside all year round,” writes Sarah McLean of Rockies Girl. “One of the best parts about walking is it can be as long/short as you’d like and there’s a never-ending list of places to go.
Sometimes we like to drive out to the mountains to do longer hikes as the settings are so beautiful. In Kananaskis there’s a variety of interpretive or official trails to choose from that are suitable in some form for kids under five. Often though, we love to stay in Calgary and make use of all the green spaces in the city.
For shorter outings we’ll plan to walk to a creek or river and throw rocks. Many parks also have ice cream nearby!
For longer walks we’ll pack a picnic, bikes, bubbles, a stroller or carrier, and spend time exploring. In the winter we bundle up and bring hot chocolate to enjoy afterwards. While we also enjoy more labour intensive outdoor activities like downhill skiing and camping, there is something to be said for lazy days in the woods near your house!”
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Susan Curtis Strayer of Mountain Mom and Tots declares that, “My absolute favorite way of exploring outdoors with my kids is on the ski slopes. My family lives full time at Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah. We ski and snowboard afterschool, on weekends, basically as often as we possibly can.
I love skiing as a family because it gives my time and attention wholely on my kids. I’m helping them get down the mountain safely, teaching them how to stop, turn and control speed, telling them stories on the lift and enjoying the outdoors together.
I don’t have teenagers yet, but I’ve heard that skiing as a family is a great way to stay connected in those teen years too. You get to have fun together AND they’re stuck on the lift with you for several minutes each run 🙂
When skiing with kids I recommend staying local if possible. I love our home mountain Sundance Mountain Resort, but I’m also looking forward to visiting Grand Targhee in Wyoming and Pebble Creek and Kelly Canyon resorts in southern Idaho this season.
If you want to get into family skiing but don’t know how, check out OnlineFamilySkiSchool.com – it’s an online course I put together with kidproject.org and braveskimom.com that will teach you all you need to know!”
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Jennifer Fontaine, founder of Outdoor Families Magazine, writes: “Camping in Sequoia National Park is one of our family’s most favorite things. There’s something about being 6,700 feet up in the High Sierras that lifts my soul up, reminding me of just how grateful I am, evolving and growing and mastering my awareness that I am always changing. We walk the land that John Muir fought so passionately to preserve, so that we can all drink the deep breath of its wild air. ‘Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees. The wind will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves,’ Muir said and we do.”
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Finding a place that you love as a family and visiting it year after year is a wonderful way to get outside and make memories with kids of all ages.
Have you ever thought about taking your kids kayaking, but held back because you were unsure how you might all fit comfortably?
Let’s Travel Family is a fulltime traveling family of six who love getting outside and being active together but have held off kayaking until they arrived in the Florida Keys. Jill Greising-Murschel writes, “It was in the mangrove trails of The Keys that we discovered you can fit two children and one adult in a double kayak!
Kayaking as a family has now become one of our family’s favorite outdoor activities. My husband and I each held a paddle while the two kids took turns trying to help move the kayaks along. It was so fun to move our family through the mangrove trails while searching for wildlife and staying cool with the small sprinkles of water that made it into our kayaks. Snacks were passed out midway through and the kids stayed safe and happy in their life jackets while taking turns with the paddles.”
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Last summer we discovered bikepacking as a family and it revolutionized our way to get into the backcountry with two young kids. Bikepacking is essentially the off-road version of bike touring with a packing style that aims for minimalism (something we are working on as a family of four).
What a marvellous invention a bicycle is, even more impressive when it can carry the load for you instead of you having to carry your gear and your kids’ gear on your back in a heavy pack!
Our route choices are limited to mostly dirt roads at this point since our kids are still young, but we do have lots of options in our local mountains with fire roads that lead us up remote valleys that we are enjoying exploring at this age and stage.
Bikepacking is a wonderful way to travel by bicycle as a family while avoiding many (or all) busy roads. Follow Lindsay and her family on her adventures here, at Our Hundred Acre Wood, but also over at This Mom Bikes.
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Just Get Outside
Tanya Koob of Rockies Family Adventures fame just adores being outside. “We love downhill skiing as a family in the winter and enjoy mountain biking in the summer.
Both of these are my son’s favourite sports, and it makes it easier to get out when your children enjoy the activity. There’s less fighting, less complaining, and far fewer battles over wanting to just stay home.
My husband also loves both skiing and biking, so it’s great for the family, and we have an in-house teacher for reasonable skill progression in both sports.
For me, I’d actually prefer to spend more weekends cross country skiing, and I had to learn to ride a bike again as an adult when I discovered my son becoming interested in biking.
I believe it’s important to set an example though, so I won’t just drop my boys off at the ski hill, or send my son off biking with my husband while I stay home or go do something else.
We love playing together as a family, even if that means I have to step outside my comfort zone to keep up, or if I have to learn a new sport.
This winter we’re spending most of our weekends traveling between ski resorts and we’re having a lot of fun chasing each other down progressively harder ski runs each weekend.
I started the season faster than my son on the hill, and now can’t keep up. Guess I’ll be taking lessons soon.”
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