How to Get the Family Outdoors
Being a Parent of the Wild is not always easy. It may not come naturally and though we are bombarded by the media about the enormous benefits of less screen time and more fresh air, the reality is that it can be hard to know where to start to get outside.
These ideas help get kids outdoors, making outdoor time easier for us parents as well as our children.
Start planning NOW for a summer full of mini adventures and maximum outdoors!
Start Children Young
Start your children in their life of wildness as early as possible, right from birth, so that being outdoors and loving nature is as automatic to them as breathing.
Break In Older Kids Gently!
To encourage older children outside, take it slow. Don’t expect a 10-year old who’s never had a garden to suddenly be an expert tree climber. Encourage, advise, go gently but most of all allow them to test their body and learn their limits in their own time whilst supporting when needed (e.g. a helping hand, if asked for, to get down from a tree).
Model the Change You want to See
I’m a big advocate of getting stuck in with the kids (without causing embarrassment). We can’t drag toddlers into muddy bogs nor force them to splash but we can jump puddles ourselves while they witness our enjoyment. They’ll start copying st some point. Give it a try with any outdoor activity..
Starting with newborns, these suggestions help us inspire our children to a lifetime of nature-loving and wild adventures. The more they experience, the more they will love it, the more they will want to protect the planet.
30 Things to Do Outdoors
If you can’t get your kids outside there are plenty of people to do it for you.
1. Join an Organisation – all parents can struggle with time and motivation to get outdoors. Enroll your kids in Scouts or Guides, find a Forest School, gardening club, lifesaving group, youth club, Pony Club, sports workshop, sea, air or army cadets, nature clubs, walking or running groups, PGL or bushcraft holidays or volunteering. Ask friends or research online – The Wild Network may help – and then live vicariously through your children’s infectious outdoor enthusiasm – you might find the bug catching!
2. Baby Wearing – carrying your newborn in a sling acclimatises them to the elements while ensuring your own exercise. Research baby facing inwards to avoid infant hip dysplasia then go anywhere, in any weather, with baby on board. Wild Mums rock!
3. Dog Walking – take baby out with the dog from day one, another perfect way for them to experience fresh air, all weathers, blue skies and green leaves (as well as how bumpy prams are or how snuggly a sling is!)
4. Puddle Splashing – one of the first adjustments new ‘Parents of the Wild’ must make; clothes washing will be a major part of life from now on! Puddles, and splashing in them, however deep and muddy, are now fair game. I ALWAYS carrying a spare change of clothes and takeng wellies and waterproofs everywhere. See How to be the Best Wild Parent Ever.
5. Freedom for Feet – we are true barefoot babes in our house, shunning shoes for most of the year. Grass is a great soft landing when learning to walk and doing it barefoot ensures optimum balance and posture for baby. Barefoot walking throughout life is a great sensory stimulus and helps the body connect with nature.
6. Paddling – kids will paddle anywhere, anytime, including in winter, requiring wellies when it’s too cold for bare skin! And there’s nothing worse than water-shy parents – pull on your wellies and demonstrate the fun.
7. Duck Feeding – toddlers LOVE feeding wild birds at the local pond. It’s the perfect way to teach them about wildlife and water safety as well as encouraging a love of nature and conservation. Don’t feed bread though – it’s bad for ducks! Read my Duck Food Guide.
9. Walk to School – so it requires getting up earlier? Walking to school is the simplest way to incorporate outdoor activity into daily life (as well as having fun with autumn leaf-kicking and ‘enjoying’ all weathers…) If the journey is too far try parking a few roads from school and walking part-way. This daily habit creates a lifetime of better health.
10. Fun in the Snow – shake up the fun with snow-fires, igloo building and night sledging with head torches. Remember to check on the neighbours and feed wildlife and for adventurous adults I highly recommend Snow Holing in the Cairngorms!
11. Climb a Tree – great confidence-building for life skills like strength, hand-eye co-ordination, risk taking, facing fears, problem solving and gravity. If kids are old enough to use a slide, they’re ready to climb trees, with surreptitious parental support (and a little of that behaviour-modelling again?) Tree climbing with ropes is another recommended family challenge.
12. Get Dirty and Wet – a prerequisite to being ‘outdoorsy’! Caroline’s motto is ‘The dirtier the clothes, the more fun the adventure’ and we added ‘The messier the car, the more fun the journey.’ No explanation needed.
13. Farm or Wildlife Park Visit – being an outdoor family is about green living as well as outdoor fun but kids won’t protect the planet if they don’t already love it. Many tots get their first contact with animals at well-managed parks, and once they love the natural world, they’ll naturally want to protect it. Win, win.
14. Bouldering – kids who start scrambling over rocks and cliffs during toddlerhood will be mountain goats by age 5! Discovering the body’s limits is exciting and rewarding. Some leisure centres have bouldering walls where strength and technique can be practised without climbing ropes, a great starter for wild kids.
15. Ride a Pony – many children first encounter animals when pony riding (or on a donkey at the beach if animal welfare is ensured). Riding stables often include horse care activities as well as lessons.
16. Collect shells – whilst upholding the ‘take only photographs’ ethos I do love ethical shell collecting, with care not to take live specimens. The variety of shape and colour offers fascinating nature study plus art and craft too.
17. Rockpooling & Pond Dipping – no holiday is complete without it. Buy a net and bucket (and wellies for pond dipping). Remind kids to treat wild creatures with care and respect as they remove them from their natural habitats, and return them gently.
18. Scavenger Hunt – a great outdoor distraction particularly for younger children. Download printable lists or create your own, maybe with a prize.
19. Stargazing & Night-time Exploring – kids love going outside in the dark even on a simple walk to the shops. It’s in The Tiger Who Came to Tea so it must be true! Stargazing encourages an interest in science and is a great family activity – lie in sleeping bags to identify constellations, meteors, planets and the International Space Station. Discover a dark sky area near you.
20. Nature Spotting – or ‘searching nature’ (as my childhood alter-ego called it) creates links with the natural world, developing more of that desire to protect the environment. Download identification resources and start with garden bird watching, identifying ducks, wildflowers, trees, animals, shells. Record sightings – I still have my childhood spotter guides – & include keepsakes like feathers, shells or pressed flowers.
21. Play Adventure Games – it’s hard to ‘teach’ this skill (mostly learnt by being kicked outside by frazzled parents, which rarely happens these days!). Nudge kids by suggesting a branch looks like a gang-plank or a dragon, or make spy HQ in a den. They’ll be adventuring all over the neighbourhood in no time.
22. Light a Fire – the primeval ‘man-fire-barbecue’ stereotype doesn’t hold in our house; the women are the firestarters led by Wild Grandma! Urban Campfires are good for larger gardens and many campsites allow fires or firepits, while a garden BBQ makes a good compromise to practice fire-lighting and cooking skills.
23. Camp or Bivouac – a first sleepover is a modern childhood rite of passage and can easily lead to camping or bivvying with friends (sleeping outside without a tent). Start with a family overnighter in a tent in the garden, progressing to kids-only as they get older. Summer bivvying in the garden is disproportionately exciting for kids too.
24. Make a Den – there’s something primeval in the creation of shelter and kids go to extraordinary lengths to decorate dens, given enough time. Organisations like National Trust are catching on with stick or willow den areas, and anyone lucky enough to have garden bushes may well find the smallest of gaps transformed!
25. Litter Picking – not most people’s idea of outdoor family fun but a litter pick or beach clean is a rewarding challenge and another way to nurture a love for the planet. I’ve never seen children as happy tidying up as when we did a paddling litter pick in a local stream!
26. Wildlife Survey – for outdoor educational activities try citizen science projects. Choose a project, download the information pack, carry out the research then report findings for scientific analysis. Find ideas from jellyfish and shark surveys to bird watches and tree health testing at Citizen Science.
27. Take a Hike – walking is such a cheap, easy and beneficial exercise we all need to do it more. Your school-walking kids will easily transition to longer walks as they get older and teens can be challenged to climb ever-taller peaks. Incentivise struggling youngsters with Ways to make Walking with kids Wonderful.
28. Swim Wild – swimming is a really important skill and outdoor swimming has added excitement. Prioritise safety/tide times etc and find natural rock pools, sheltered beaches and secluded lakes and rivers in the UK Wild Swimming Guide.
29. Sail a Boat, Canoe or Dinghy – that mild fear of potential capsize is what makes messing about on boats exciting for youngsters. We grew up with an inflatable dinghy and have recently bought an inflatable canoe for family river fun. Always think safety, especially with inflatables and use buoyancy aids and safety ropes, especially at the beach.
30. Learn to Snorkel – this isn’t an obvious UK beach activity due to our chilly and choppy seas but it’s a great skill that gets you right where it’s happening in nature. There’s more marine life within a few feet of the beach than most of us realise. Kids of the Wild has coined the phrase ‘Goggling’ for our invention of wildlife-watching with goggles while leaning off an inflatable! Read how much fun this can be in goggling – the new snorkellng..
Getting outdoors benefits everyone in ways both obvious and surprising. Hopefully these ideas will help families get outside more – please share with any friends who might need a nudge into the wild.
Top Tips to Create an Outdoor Lifestyle
- Start children young
- Model outdoor behaviour
- Support kids, don’t dictate
- Start small and easy; little steps
- Consider safety but allow risk
- Follow the countryside code
Welcome to the wild, for maximum outdoors on your mini family adventures.
How to be the Best Wild Parent in the World! – confidence boosters for outdoors parents!
Scientific inspiration to get into the wild Wild Kids Rock – 11 Reasons To Get Into The Wild NOW.
Nature activities at home Go Wild Inside – 17 Ways to Connect with Nature at Home.