I’m a mother of two, but before ever carrying the “Mama” title, I was an outdoorswoman. Long days spent on a bike saddle or hiking to high country creeks were my norm. And, if there’s one thing I learned through decades of outdoor adventuring, it was preparedness. Fast forward to my early thirties with four years of “mom’ing” under my belt and my preparedness mindset quickly shifted to “be prepared, but expect the unexpected”.
Our family has attempted bikepacking trips, camping weekends, float trips, backcountry fishing excursions and more with our (currently) 4-year-old and twenty-month-old. Each of these outings were sprinkled with successes and lessons learned. This column shares my perspective on #momlife and stands as a platform for women and men to explore, laugh, maybe gain insights and hopefully feel inspired.
To kick it off, here are five tips to help make getting outside with kids a little easier.
Set realistic goals
Summiting a 14er with only a few short hikes under your #adventureparenting belt might be a little ambitious. Definitely add it to the list, but work up to it. Setting realistic goals will help increase the likelihood of reaching them and accomplishing the activity at hand. Consider creating a “goals” vision board or simple list that gradually increase trail distance or highlights new destinations. Acknowledging where you are – beginner hiker or veteran paddler – and where you want to go will help attain the goals you set for yourself and your family.
They will cry, you might cry, and both are ok
I’ll admit, it is very easy to feel defeated when dressing and preparing your kid(s) for a simple walk around the neighborhood to the local pond or riverfront takes thirty minutes or more. Know that this is ok. Your son doesn’t want to wear the hat he claimed to love yesterday and now he’s in full-blown meltdown mode? If it’s any consolation, we have all been there! To help get your kiddo(s) out the door meltdown-free, try having 2-3 outfits and accessory options pre-selected. This gives them the chance to “choose” their adventure garb!
Yell less, play more
Speaking of meltdowns…
I am borrowing this bit of wisdom from a friend because, let’s be honest, it takes a village and a mom village is truly the ultimate phone-a-friend when you’re at your wits end with what to do to get your children out of the house, tantrum-free. As a mother of twins, this woman is a wealth of knowledge and experience; of which, I readily take advice from. In my experience, the root of frustrations tend to fall under three categories: hunger; physical discomfort (wet, hot, buggy), and fatigue (missed nap time). When tensions start growing, deter potential negativity from escalating through redirecting! Sing a song, have a scavenger hunt or take a break from the trail to play in a creek. Whatever you choose, keep “play” at the heart of it. This gives your kids a break from what might feel like a grueling experience and they’ll come back recharged.
Always carry trail treats
They go by many names: “trail pellets”, “rewards”, “energy boosters”; but their purpose is all the same: to encourage, and sustain (and maybe bribe) kiddos to help keep the adventure stoke alive. Whether you need to eek out another half mile without a child on your shoulders or attempting to squelch a near-meltdown, trail treats are sure to keep the adventure from derailing. We tend to pack healthy fruit snacks, dark chocolate and gummy treats any time we leave the house.
Choose your own adventure
As a mom and “retired” summer camp counselor, this phrase speaks volumes to me; and can translate a couple different ways. Literal translation: let your child choose the activity! Give them a few options (e.g., hike, playing at the river, hitting the lake, bike ride) and let them decide the day’s activity. This gives them ownership and might just build the stoke enough to see it through to the end. Figurative translation: regardless of the activity, they have the power of choice – to choose engaging in it and having fun, or not. You can get as philosophical as you like, but for our family, when we hit a hiccup on a trip, we always remind our kids that the adventure can be as fun as they want it to be – they just have to make the choice to enjoy it.