How to be Family Adventure Ready
Family outdoor adventures are rarely, if ever, easy. If you ask any of my 5 children, they will tell you that being uncomfortable and yes, sometimes bored, is all part of the package (and where creativity is born). The first of our children is about to leave the nest and with that comes a lot of reflection. I wish I could say I'm motivated to get my family outdoors for exercise, learning new skills or encouraging self-care (it is a little of all those things) but my biggest motivator is creating positive memories for my children. The ironic thing is that not all of our outdoor adventures actually end up creating a positive memory immediately. Sometimes we end up with siblings fighting, someone getting hurt, or a discouraged parent due to the lack of cooperation. BUT, that won’t ever stop me from trying (maybe to my children’s dismay). My intention and hope is that at least one of them has fun and at the same time we move our bodies, leave the screens behind, experience adventures or places we hadn’t before, and hopefully connect with each other, nature and our creator.
Intentions are great, but it doesn’t magically make it easy to get outdoors with them. It is rare if there isn’t at least one person whining about the activity or the length of drive it takes to get there. It also feels difficult to find an outing we all agree on. It often requires planning ahead, hours of packing and likely a short night of sleep just before liftoff (let alone the lack of sleep that will exist on our adventure). It would be easier to bag the whole idea, sit on the couch and watch a movie. It would be easier to sleep in my own bed, eat from my own kitchen and of course not to have to listen to the complaining. But I do believe that someday they will remember at least one adventure with fond memories and maybe we can have some good laughs.
It isn’t impossible to find family activities that everyone enjoys. With so many people in our family we have found a few activities we like to repeat because they allow for some variety. Off-roading with trail running (for those not so keen on being in the vehicle) has become a great compromise for our family. Being on or at water is also a favorite. This most likely allows for swimming, usually some sand play, hopefully a motorboat and some stand up paddleboard time. And no one in our family says no to a great game of tag at the playground (or anything else that provides a good amount of competition). Camping will be high on the list for those that leave before the sleeping part ;)
In the many years we have been adventuring, I have found a few things that are helpful when planning short or extended family outdoor outings:
1.Plan ahead- The more you plan for your adventure, the more fun you will have. Stress almost always coexists with procrastination. Allow space and time to be a problem solver for the things you anticipate will be a challenge.
2. Assign responsibilities- Give children a task based on their capabilities. This gets them involved, helpful and often a bit more excited. It could be gathering games or towels for smaller children, or loading the car top carrier for the older children. Find what you need help with and enlist some help.
3. Stay organized- this helps the adventure run MORE smoothly. Label everything! That way kids won’t be fighting over sleeping bags and you know which bin/bag has the bug spray. Keep items that are used together in the same place. Make lists for everything- menu lists and packing lists. Creating and saving a packing list for different activities will decrease the chance of forgetting important items (it really stinks to get to the reservoir to paddleboard without the lifejackets.)
4. Do the work once- Create reusable supplies of essentials for your recurring outdoor activities. A camping bin with all the camping essentials ready to go makes it so you don’t have to regather supplies every time you go. Keeping a travel toiletry bag packed at all times for last minute packing. Keep light jackets, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen in your car at all times for even the spur of the moment adventures.
5. Make your menu work for you- do as much food prep before your adventure starts or choose foods that don’t require much preparing so that you can spend more time playing. Make sure your family will eat the food on your menu and make sure to have enough to fill their tummies- nothing worse than hungry children! If you have children with differing preferences, put meals on your menu that leave room for choice (taco salad in a Dorito bag is one of our favorite and toppings are optional.) Make sure you have plenty of snacks!
Here are some of our easy-to-prepare-ahead, go-to adventure meals:
- Hot dogs over the fire
- PB&J Sandwiches
- Mac and cheese
- Scrambled eggs
- French Toast
- Dehydrated beans and rice
- Cup o noodles
- Knorr pasta sides
- Canned veggies
- Tub of peanut butter goes a long way
- So many things can be put in a tortilla
- Add canned chicken or flavored tuna packets to spice up other food
I am also a big advocate of making life easier, and safer. Therefore, I am a big fan of natural solutions. You won’t ever find me without my first aid essential oil kit (aka my little helpers). These oils work hard for me! Here is a list of oils I won’t leave home without on family outdoor adventures:
-Citronella spray to keep bugs away, we spray it on our bodies, tents and sleeping bags
-OnGuard spray to easily sanitize and wash dirty hands
-After sun spray (Lavender, peppermint and frankincense) to cool and repair sun kissed skin
-Lavender for bee stings and to encourage restful sleep
-Purify blend for mosquito bites
-Breathe blend to support the respiratory system when we hike at high elevation
-Deep blue/copiaba stick to soothe sore/achy muscles from over activity
Whether you are an avid adventurer or a brand new one, make sure to have fun! Setting reasonable expectations and being flexible for the unknown will only lead to success. It’s time to start living and creating lasting memories!