They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say: even better if that village shares your interests and some of your philosophy on child-rearing. Imagine my joy when I discovered a wonderful online community of other outdoorsy parents from throughout North America – from Alaska to Georgia, Alberta, Colorado and beyond. This group has been keen to collaborate on articles, share each other’s new blog posts, and also offer up tips on outdoor parenting. I thought it was high-time to feature a bunch of them!
I asked each one for their favourite posts and their tips for new parents who want to get in the outdoors. I hope you’ll be as inspired as I am by their wise and encouraging words.
First of all, invest in some good basic gear pieces that will keep your family warm so they can stay out and enjoy themselves. Most quality products can be bought used, passed down to numerous children, and/or sold or consigned fairly well. Base layers are key so don’t skimp on those! My blog is focused on families finding some great gear, so check it out for tips on exactly what that means.
More than the right gear (though that helps), the perfect trail, or even a good dose of inspiration, the thing that has been the greatest catalyst for getting us outdoors are other like-minded friends ready to adventure with us. This is hard, for even with all the money in the world, you cannot buy friends. But you can be purposeful in looking for these relationships and befriending other overwhelmed parents in the outdoors. These are the people who trade watching kids while you climb a route or share snacks on the trail. These people keep us going season after season.
GO! Of course, you may be anxious and scared and apprehensive and you may even become a complete lunatic (like I did, for a brief moment, on our first camping trip with our 4 month old daughter), but you shouldn’t allow those totally normal feelings to stop you from sharing incredible experiences with your little ones. That’s not to say that you should throw caution to the wind and take your newborn bungee jumping. Be prepared. Do your research. Becoming an informed adventurer means you can enjoy the luxury of being spontaneous and experience meaningful and exciting outdoor adventures!
Start small but get out there because there will never be a perfect time to get outside with kids. You can wait until your children are older but there will always be challenges from keeping the baby warm to Saturday soccer practice to teens who want to stay in town with their friends.
If they are comfortable and protected (from temperature, bugs, etc.) little ones generally love being outdoors, particularly if they are in motion. Some people take their crying babies on car rides as their secret weapon to calm them down… for our infant son, nothing worked better then bundling him up and taking him outside in the brisk winter air! For my family, hikes are our favorite outdoor activity. So my best advice is getting a comfortable child carrier, and head on out – any time of year. You’ll benefit from the [sleep deprived?!] stress release and exercise, and your little one will start acclimating early to having fun through outdoor recreation.
Start small and go easy on yourself. Even if the first time out you only take a walk down the street, chalk that up to a victory. In no time you’ll be hiking mountains with your little one on your back.
Be brave, and just go for it! If you love camping, climbing, and hiking, you’ll love doing them with your little one as long as you are prepared. You don’t have to over think things, but step through your routines and child’s needs at home, and then plan for how you’ll meet those needs on your adventure.
Accept that your first effort to get your kids outside may unfold differently than you planned or expected. Kids and the outdoors are both hard to control. Just get them out, make the most of whatever happens, and you can count it as a success.
When it feels like way too much hassle and way too many logistics, remember how well a kiddo sleeps after a day spent outside. And keep the bigger picture in mind, too. The patterns you start now will last a lifetime.
I always try to encourage other parents to get outside with their children every day, regardless of the weather, even if it’s just for a little while. That way being outdoors becomes a habit for the whole family from the get-go. If you’re not sure what to do, start by going for walks around the neighborhood or exploring your own backyard – sometimes that’s where children find the best adventures!
Bring snacks and drinks. Nearly any activity, such as a hike or bike ride, is made better by stopping for a snack. And when doing a race, having water handy makes all the difference in the world to gain your child’s cooperation to keep moving!
Keep your eye on the prize. When you are passionate about something (hiking, skiing, biking, climbing, kayaking, whatever) it is only natural to want to share this with your children. Just remember to let them set the pace and progress at their comfort level. You don’t want to push too hard, too fast and turn them off. The prize is spending time together doing what you love. If you let your kids set the pace, you’ll actually get there more quickly!
Don’t make it harder than it has to be. A little bit more gear is involved, expectations need to be lowered and a sense of humor needs to be brought along, but always remember why you are out adventuring with your children. You will be making lasting memories and your children will become stewards of the outdoors.
Who inspires you to get outdoors with your family?
Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.
View all posts by Meghan J. Ward