Adventuring with kids
Top tips for outdoor adventures with kids
Getting outdoors with kids can be challenging but don't let it put you off. These top tips will make family adventures a walk in the park!
As a family, we like nothing more than pulling on our boots and heading out into the great outdoors. We started hiking properly when our youngest child was 2, (she’s now 5) so we’ve now got a good routine of what we do and how we do it. Last year, we hiked 28 times, averaging about 8 miles per hike. This works out to approximately twice per month, which isn’t bad considering we all have full time school and work.
Planning and preparation
When taking 3 children on muddy hikes, through forests, in caves and up mountains, it needs a bit of planning and preparation. To help make things easier on ourselves, we prep food and bags the night before, chilling the drinks and cleaning the boots ready to get up and go in the morning. We make sure we have the essentials; tissues, first aid kit, a spare carrier bag for muddy items (you can read more about what we take here) always packed in the bags regardless of where we go. We find this makes the atmosphere much calmer in a morning, especially if we’ve got a long drive ahead.
We like to go where there’s a bit of history or a story to tell about where we are visiting. The kids love to explore caves and castles so if there’s a walk that ends with one of these, it’s a winner! I also like to go with recommendations, ( we’ve found a lot through Instagram ) so if somebody has been before us and has really enjoyed it, then we will check it out. But then, to contradict this, we do hunt out the lesser visited places. Usually this is done by accident when we inevitably end up lost. In 2018 we mostly stuck to the Peak District and mid Wales but 2019 will see us adventuring further up to the Lake District. We see no restrictions in terms of what the children can manage and will always use our judgment when we are there as to whether they can handle the climb or if things look a little scary.
We love to have mini breaks and have stayed in everything from hotels to tents. The kids love to camp and we have bunked in glamping pods, safari tents, a huge 12 berth tent and even a little 4 man pop up. They will lay their head anywhere, but the most fun they have is when we are off the grid, in a field with just a ball to occupy themselves. With the fresh air and exercise, they are guaranteed to fall into a deep sleep at the end of the day.
We find the fun. A destination is picked, then I investigate the local area to scope out what we can do. Or, we pick an attraction we’d like to visit and hunt out the most unique accommodation we can. In 2019 we are booked to stay in a converted Railway carriage in Cornwall, and you wouldn’t believe how excited the kids are to stay in it. We don’t pick the fanciest hotels or the poshest cuisine. Just the simple pleasures of bonding time as a family and lots of outdoor adventures.
Keeping the kids entertained
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Sometimes the kids are cranky. Sometimes us adults are cranky! When the drive is long, the children are kitted out with books, and drawing materials. No technology is allowed where the kids are concerned! We have a car playlist with silly songs and a bit of Disney to sing along to. We play I spy and make words out of car registration plates. Granted, there’s still the odd ‘are we there yet?’ emanating from the back seat. These situations will never be perfect, but we try and make the best out of them.
When morale is low on a long walk, or the car park seems miles away, it’s probably because it is! We sing and dance and be silly. We talk and dream and plan our futures. We talk about the history of the area we are in (if we know any!), the local wildlife or the plants. If the kids are miserable and slacking,then food is always a win. We stop, refuel and carry on. To be honest, as they are getting older, they are getting stronger so we don’t see many fluctuations in temperament. When they were younger, intermittent piggy backs helped little legs, but they’ve always been encouraged to walk themselves, even at a snails pace.
Kids can be finicky, especially when it comes to food. Our middle son was born with allergies to milk, egg and soya so I know first hand how tricky feeding a varied family can be. Wherever we go, we always take a picnic. This works well for bribery, energy and just seeing us through the hike. The main body is made up of sandwiches, wraps or cold pasta. They are eaten out of reusable tubs so we are not wasting packaging or being unkind to the environment. I also cook a handful of chicken pieces and sausage rolls to pick at. We take grapes, sticks of cucumber and carrot. Crisps, biscuits and flapjacks or cereal bars for extra protein. Everything is taken out of the original packaging and put in individual tubs for the kids so they can a) fit in the bag better, b) everybody has a small tub of goodies each and there’s no squabbling over who’s had how many pieces of popcorn chicken, and c) tubs are better for little hands to hold so no pieces of plastic wrapping go flying off in the wind. It works for us and makes for a good routine too.
Should I really be taking the kids on long hikes?
Yes, yes I should. Often I think kids are underestimated. Lots. Why shouldn’t they be able to climb a mountain. They have more sustenance than people give them credit for. Why shouldn’t they be jumping around in the snow in minus temperatures? The kids are wrapped up warm with layers to suit every season. To be honest, we are worse in hotter weathers than in the cold. To date, I could count on one hand, how many times the kids have been ill. We don’t have sick bugs, we have the odd cold here and there but nothing enough to knock anybody off their feet. My middle child has never had a flu jab (because of his egg allergy) and he’s never been seriously ill. I think this is wholly contributed by lots of exercise, fresh air and good food. I always say, food and sleep are the best things for any growing child. Being outdoors helps get both these things into children.
A sense of pride.
It makes me so proud that I can say my children walked 24 miles for charity, or they climbed the highest mountain in England and Wales with not so much of a peep out of any of them. They enjoy the challenge and it builds a great character in all of them. My eldest loves to write, just like me about the adventures we go on, my middle child has a thirst for knowledge about every living thing on this earth. And rocks too! And my tiny, feeble looking daughter is the most terrifyingly independent little red haired hiker anybody has ever met.
We are due to have many more adventures in the U.K. and hopefully beyond. There are plans in 2019 for Cornwall, the Lake District, and Europe, among many other places I can possibly fit in! To read more about what we do and where we go, and to follow along, please check out our Instagram and blog @anordinaryfamilyof5.com
A massive thanks to Zoe, Dicky and the 3 kids at An ordinary family of 5. They are truly inspiring and their sense of adventure is amazing! Make sure to follow their adventures and we hope the tips will encourage you to get outdoors more with the family.