How to spend more time outdoors as a family. Five easy tips for everyone!
We have spent years doing our best to create a nature rich existence for our family. Long before I was pregnant with both of our children, we were exploring. That love of the natural world continued once we welcomed our children into our lives and became more important as they grew.
After giving a recent talk to the Basel Children's Trust, a mother contacted me the following day. She wanted to know how to spend more time outside with her children who are not always receptive to hiking. I was happy to field her question and could easily relate to her dilemma.
To help boost your family's nature time, I provide a few tips below. Remember, nature is nature, so don't put too much pressure on yourself to make every outing perfect.
Tip #1 - It doesn't always have to be a hike!
Your children will benefit from time outdoors regardless of the activity. Whether it be a trip to a local park, a pool, a lake, botanical gardens, or a nice stroll around your neighborhood. Remember, nature exposure and fresh air should be your primary goals.
Tip #2 - If you do hike, select a route that keeps your children motivated!
If you are embarking on a hike with your children, select a trail that is family-friendly and engaging. Switzerland does an incredible job of curating and maintaining theme trails for children of all ages. Our first book, lists several themed trails that incentivize children to keep exploring in order to reach the next activity. There are a few theme trails listed on this website and we personally loved the Muggestutz trails when our children were younger.
"Your children will remember the adventures you went on, not the stuff you bought them. Kids outgrow stuff, they never outgrow adventures." – Unknown
Tip #3 - Snacks are key!
Our children still need snacks and incentives to get through hikes, so make the snacks interesting and don't hand out those treats all at once. Plus, remember that little ones burn lots of calories when they are exploring, so to prevent a lag in energy, pack nutrient rich snacks. Ideal snacks include trail mix, granola bars, small sandwiches, fresh and dried fruit, veggies, muffins, and hard boiled eggs.
Tip #4 - Create nature explorers!
Turn your children into nature explorers and give them child-friendly binoculars, magnifying glasses, bug jars, activity books and encourage them to discover the natural world. We created an activity book for children of all ages to help document their activities and search for hidden gems whenever they are outside. Such objects can easily be used in your back garden, at a local park or at a lake.
Also consider selecting a theme (birds for example) and encourage your children to spot and document the birds they see when they are outside.
Tip #5 - Destinations matter!
Pick destinations that are fun and have a fabulous surprise halfway through or at the end of your outdoor time. By this I mean, a playground, a lake for swimming or a location to grab an ice cream. There is nothing more exciting for a child than turning a corner only to discover an incredible Alpine playground. Playgrounds ensure hours of outdoor fun!
And never underestimate the power of a camp fire! Children love to gather around a fire and grill their lunch or cook Smores.
If you need additional inspiration, our first book highlights routes that are child-friendly, with at least one element of interest for each hike provided. We denote this through the use of pictograms, so you, our reader, know exactly what to expect.
Don't give up!
Not every outdoor adventure needs to be epic or complicated for that matter. Forget perfection and just head outside! Children will benefit from the time they spend outdoors when even the simplest experience can translate into a wild adventure for a child. Remain tenacious in your endeavor and keep at it. While we never promise perfect, we do know from years of experience, that time spent outdoors is never wasted!