For all those mums looking to enter the world of adventure with kids for the first time or anyone who has a little person in their lives, be it aunties or grannies, this post is for you.
Lots of women in the community have asked if you still be adventurous with little ones in tow? In short, YES, definitely! Here are our tips for why you can adventure with children and what to keep in mind, when heading out.
Check out ‘Ideas for adventuring with kids‘ too, to get you started.
WHAT DO CHILDREN GET OUT OF ADVENTURING?
Having worked with hundreds of vulnerable children and young people in the great outdoors, I’ve seen first-hand the amazing benefits of outdoor adventures –
- Having this wild playground can make children physically and mentally healthier, creating feelings of well-bring and even long-term positive mental health
- The outdoors can also build their confidence and resilience, helping them set and achieve their own goals and dreams
- It can be essential quality time with parents and siblings
- It can create a deep appreciation of nature, and instil a greater sense of responsibility towards protecting the precious places we love to explore.
WHAT DO PARENTS GET OUT OF ADVENTURING?
As parents too, we need to take care of ourselves.
It can be hard to adjust to a new life with children. It’s all too easy to sink into dark thoughts, worrying that it may be the end of life as we knew it, blaming ourselves for our shortcomings and otherwise not living the lives we used to, “No more adventuring, no more freedom”, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
So keep getting outdoors, take the children along and you can both reap the benefits.
TOP TIPS TO CONSIDER FOR ADVENTURE WITH KIDS
Adventuring can start with children as young as possible! You can adapt your adventures as needed, starting with putting your baby in a sling for a walk to simple garden explorations as they get a bit older. And once adventuring becomes part of ‘normal’ life then it will be easier to build up to bigger challenges in time.
Here are a few tips to consider, to make adventurin’ with children easier –
1. Consider risks but don’t let them rule you
As parents our imaginations run wild about all the things that might happen. It’s absolutely normal to want to protect your little ones and keep them safe but quite often these fears are irrational and become barriers. The “worst happening” is an awful thought, something that I promise even the most well-travelled, hardened adventure queen mum will have considered. And if you decide that it is not worth the risk then that’s absolutely fine and right. Don’t do anything you think is too dangerous or too physically or emotionally tough for your particular child or you.
2. Don’t do too much too soon but don’t underestimate their capabilities
You are trying to foster a love for adventure, not put them off. Start with simply walking as much as possible. A child that doesn’t like to walk may limit your adventures. If they show interest in something more demanding then let them give it a go. Children are surprisingly resilient given the right motivation.
3. Get out and explore but on (mostly) their terms
Try to let your children take the lead. If they express something they’d like to try then grab the opportunity. Hopefully this will help nurture the belief that anything is possible. Try not to throw up barriers (even if you know there will be some). Plot and plan with them, help them think big. Chances are you’ll need to scale it down a bit (a lot) but they needn’t be too aware of the details at a young age.
4. Kids will be kids
Screaming tantrums, sudden poo needs, hangriness and stick sword fight injuries by loving brothers are all possible and likely. It is inevitable that it won’t be easy, but when is it, day to day?!
5. Prepare yourself
Having children isn’t always rosy, so it’s fair to expect that just because you’re outdoors trying to have a wonderful, meaningful time it’s pretty likely that at some point the less easy parts of parenting will come out of nowhere. Try to remember that these would no doubt happen wherever you are.
6. Buddying up or go it alone
To help make adventures with kids easier you might want some company. Quite often the fun of friends takes the pressure off for a while. Alternatively, children may enjoy time away from their friends and siblings to share an outdoors experience with a parent one-to-one. If you can make adventures your “special time” together then that’s a win too.
7. A mental collection of entertainment
Your most invaluable tool is a personal head-based google search of distractions in the form of games, knowledge and chit chat designed to work wonders in motivating a child outdoors.
8. A get-out plan
Like all adventures, sometimes it doesn’t go to plan. So have a get-out plan in case you need to head home, e.g. if you’re out for a walk and you don’t have strong arms or shoulders for carrying, then make sure you can return to the car/bus/home relatively easily should you need to.
9. Snacks, treats and comforts
Everyone needs a boost so have snacks and any other little comforts they might need, to hand.
10. Get them involved
Let them help with planning. Let them pack their own things (you might need to help edit though). Let them follow the map or use a compass. Let them help set up the tent or tarp or whatever you’re using. Responsibilities are like rewards for children and they will gain so much from achieving these small things.
11. The journey is more important than the destination
Never has this been more true than when adventuring with children. Treat the whole journey as a discovery not just the destination. And remember, make it fun!
12. Stop, look, learn, love
Young children tend to need more stops to explore and investigate. Perhaps we could all learn from that. As adults, what a great opportunity to once again look closer and deeper, to rediscover the nature around us, to learn new facts and pass them on, to see adventure close to home and to enjoy the simple beauty of our surroundings.
Sophie Beesley is a wildlife conservationist, teacher and mum-queen of two little adventurers in training. Sophie has adventured far and near, travelling and working with diverse species & diverse people on wildlife research projects, outdoor youth projects and habitat conservation, always with a focus and determination to engage others by creating connections with nature through practical and meaningful outdoor immersion.