With the ongoing rise of portable technology and social media, many parents worry that their children are spending more time basking in the rays of their screens than good old-fashioned daylight. But don’t give up! To tempt them back into the great outdoors, we’ve assembled a simple list of tricks and tactics:
Involve Them in Planning
Whether you’re heading up a hill, into a forest or down to the beach, the important thing is that your kids get their say. The last thing you want is them lagging silently behind as you indulge in your own preferred form of exercise – it’ll damp your fun plus ensure they find excuses next time.
Find out where they want to go and why. Maybe it’s an interest in rockpools, or sheep, or castles, or fossils – but once you know, you can plan around it.
Keep Travel Manageable
You may need to hop in a car – or public transport – to get where you’re going, but it’s recommended this be a manageably short portion of the outing. Especially if you’re coming back the same day.
Travel can also be expensive (with 6 out of 10 parents reporting it as an issue). Why not take it as a challenge to find adventure nearer home? A local attraction might not have as many facilities – or visitors – but that could make it all the more special for you.
Essentials to Pack
Whatever the weather report says, play it safe, and make sure you’re covered for rainy or cold conditions (lightweight jackets can be packed into a very small bundle). You should all be wearing clothes you can stand to get dirty – this isn’t a church picnic. And a small first aid kit, suntan lotion and some insect repellent are smart choices for your bag. It’s also a good idea to ask the kids to help pack – teaching them responsibility and practicality.
Consider Renting Gear
If you’re trying an activity that requires specialist equipment – whether cycling, camping, climbing or whatever – be aware you could rent it the first time. That way, if it doesn’t prove a good fit for your gang, you’re not stuck with the often expensive kit.
Get Them Involved
One way to keep children engaged once the adventure is underway is to continue to involve them in decisions. Simply trailing after an adult intent on barking orders can sour the atmosphere pretty quickly. Instead, make a point of consulting them on what you should do next, or even follow their lead in which route to take (though be careful not to get lost).
Other jobs that are both fun and educational include examining maps together and sharing out the food at mealtimes. And, on a lighter note, helping children take their own photos along the way – of whatever they’re most interested in – will really help them feel they’re making memories.
Even a hike will usually involve a rest in a field at some point – and it’s a good idea to pack a ball, a frisbee or a kite, on the off-chance you have any energy left (don’t worry – they will). I-Spy is a more restful alternative that can likewise be played while on the move.
When it’s Time to Stop
While children can often appear to have bewilderingly endless reserves of hopping, skipping and jumping, they’ll tire eventually, and it’s best not to prolong this part of the day. Where possible, the best adventures don’t push kids outside their daily routines too far, and it’s best to head home with more left to do next time than end later on a low. Good luck!