We’ve often heard the benefits of getting outside. From improved mental health to increased immunity, there’s no question that spending time in nature should be a regular part of our daily lives. Yet when young children are thrown into the mix, heading outdoors can seem almost impossible. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. Faith Davis, a military spouse stationed in Alaska with her vivacious 4-year-old and one on the way, gives tips on how to make getting outside more accessible with little ones.
1. Know before you go. Whether it’s a hike in the mountains or a day at the beach, check the weather, determine if you will have cell service, and pack a first aid kit. Know what kind of elements you will be up against, including wildlife. It is critical for your safety to be prepared. If you’re going to the beach, pack sunscreen. If you’re going to the mountains, bring bear spray. No matter what, have extra water. The five minutes of planning this takes is worth every second if you find yourself in an emergency situation.
2. Make it fun, but keep it simple. You don’t need to hold a membership to the national parks service and drive half a day to enjoy the great outdoors. Playgrounds and splash pads count, as does a walk around the block or your backyard. One of the easiest things you can do is to take an indoor activity outside. Faith keeps a stash of “pocket crafts,” small things picked up from the Target dollar spot, to easily carry on hikes. When her daughter needs a break, they color for a while, and then head back.
3. Invest in your gear. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” – Alfred Wainwright. Sometimes the difference between an enjoyable time sledding and a meltdown is a proper set of waterproof snow pants and gloves. If you live where it rains 8 days a week, make sure you have a raincoat and rain boots in your arsenal. If you frequent the beach, own several sets of SPF rash guards to help with sun protection. Gear can get expensive, so Faith suggests to shop second hand and off-season to lower the cost.
4. Know your kid. Choose activities that they enjoy. If you know your kid hates the cold, but like Faith, you live in Alaska, set reasonable expectations. Maybe you only go outside 10 minutes at a time, but you try to go out a few times a day. If your kid hates being wet, and you’ll be at the beach, make sure you bring dry clothes they can change into immediately.
5. Let go of control. Don’t be afraid to let your kid take the lead. If you don’t have anywhere specific to be, it’s okay to stop fifty times to look at flowers. If they want to jump in puddles, remind yourself that shoes and clothes will dry. Risky play is an important part of development, so take a deep breath, and stay nearby as you watch your kids test their limits.
6. ALWAYS bring snacks. I have absolutely bribed my own daughter with gummy bears to avoid carrying her back from a hike. This is kids we’re talking about after all. They will get hungry. They will complain. Snacks will save the day.
For more inspiration and tips for getting outside with your kids, check out Faith’s Instagram @Alaska.StateOfMind.