If you’ve been feeling trapped indoors, you’re not alone. Getting your family outside may take more than a bit of coaxing. Start small and incorporate favorite items and activities.
Pack a Picnic
Load a cooler with favorite sandwiches, prepared as your child prefers, and some chips, soda, and treats. Be particular about this; you don’t want to have to cut off crusts or create triangles at the park; you want to bring them out ready to eat. Make sure you also carry bug spray, sunscreen, and a trash bag. If there’s a park within walking or cycling distance, leave the electronics at home and head for the playground!
To make it special, customize it. Use the good cooler with your favorite Yeti skins. Bring bubble wands, hula hoops or a kite. Find ways to build good camping and outdoor habits. Open chip bags to avoid micro-trash for your kids and encourage them to carefully bundle their garbage.
Carry a water jug when traveling with your children and help them clean up after they get grubby. Not every park will have a water spigot or a bathroom. If there is a spigot, make sure that children are well hydrated before they get to a spigot that may or may not offer drinkable water.
If your end goal is to help your children build a love of camping and outdoor fun, water purity is a serious consideration. Each child needs a thermal water container or access to a fresh water bottle.
Bring a small first aid kit for scrapes and encourage a quick splash down at the end of each outdoor session. Let your children make mud pies, collect pine cones, and play in lakes and streams. Just make sure that they have access to fresh, clean water and that they drink before they get in the water.
Smart and Safe Swimming
Swimming in the great outdoors is much different than swimming in a pool. Everyone will need water shoes to avoid
- slipping on mossy rocks
- sharp stones
- mussel shells
When mussels take over a lake, they actually clean the water. However, a mussel cut can get infected and will be upsetting and painful. Water shoes will reduce the risk of injury. Encourage children to wear their water shoes in the family pool and around the yard when playing around the sprinkler. These shoes are stretchy; if your child loses theirs, you may need a smaller size.
Invest In Gear
The great outdoors should be fun. Great gear should increase fun. Get a good pair of binoculars for your family to share and consider a cheap pair for each child. If you have a child who’s particularly interested in rocks or animals, invest in a couple of coloring books, sketch pads or simple notebooks to help them track what they see.
Another option is to invest in a telescope. As you get further out of town, you can teach your children the constellations. There are phone apps that can offer this information; just take care not to fall into your phone when you’re done.
Plan An Overnight
Modern families are insanely busy. If you don’t get it on the calendar, it isn’t going to happen. If your family is used to spending time outside and you’re ready to try some camping, book an overnight in a campground.
A simple way to get comfortable with camping is to set up a tent in the living room. Once that is a routine, move the tent to your apartment balcony or your backyard. Next, see if a friend will allow you to camp in their yard, preferably with their children. Finally, rent a campground space and camp right next to your car. A campground may be crowded, but the people population will cut down on the risk of a critter visiting at night. While you expand your camping, study the rules of Leave no Trace and learn to pack so you can eventually hike into an overnight campsite.
Functioning well in the great outdoors is a wonderful way to both get back to nature and to enjoy cheap travel and entertainment. Set up a plastic tub where you can stash basic outdoor gear, such as a simple camping stove and your camping plates and cups. This basic kit will make it easier to get outside quickly.