Over the past year I have been lucky enough to spend more time with my kids. In the first few weeks I would jealously watch Clare swan off to uni on her bike a little early so she could make some nice coffee in the students lounge, I would mentally curse her with all sorts of things. As I turn back to the kids screaming at each other, generally hassling me to help with this and can they do that, adding in the incessant noise small children make. That high pitched screeching they just seem to make as they go about their little lives.
Now 9 months on I have learned a wee trick to minimise all of this THE GREAT OUT DOORS!
Looking back I have actually enjoyed one day a week above all else. And it’s Monday. Yes I said it I like Mondays. You see Mondays are time for the ABCs days the Adventure Baby Club. Its not really that formal group. Just a group of parents (mums and me) who are happy to take our little bundles of joy in to the big wide world not worry about mud, cuts, or sterilising every thing in sight.
The adventures we have had with the kids are by no means huge to us, but they are epics to the kids. Here are my tips for getting the kids to go out doors and enjoy it…….
1. Get good gear
I spend a fortune on good gear to be outside in, it is my job and it is part of my safety, so why would I now extend this to my kids. Now it does not mean go and by a Gortex jacket for my 1 year old. It does mean get good gloves, lots of hats, waterproofs, wellies and socks. The set my girls wear are from Lidel and they are tough, warm, waterproof and fit the kids well. When you think about it a trip to soft play is at least a fiver and lasts 2 hours when you work out a price per hour of activity I reckon the outdoors wins!
2. Get good friends.
The outdoors with kids is a far greater experience if they have people to share the adventure with. The friends don’t need to be the same age but the parents need a similar out look. As a group of parents being able to work as a team makes the outdoors manageable, as at points you need to concentrate on one thing, be that lighting and managing the fire, belaying one of the kids, or changing a nappy. Working as a team with other parents in the outdoors mean you maybe out numbered, but are never out gunned.
3. Plan a head and have good systems.
Going to places needs to be an adventure for the kids (it does not mean it has to be a journey into the unknown for you). Knowing simple things, like is there parking, will make it easier for you, but also have escape routes or activities in your mind as a back up. We will often “cook lunch” when out, this is mostly hot dogs, pancakes and marshmallows. Because basically I can totally fail at the cooking bit and it can all still be eaten. But for the kids the experience of collecting sticks, mixing batter and all the rest adds to the adventure.
Have a first aid kit (and knowledge to use it), have a repair kit for the activity (top tip take patches for tyres not spare tubes as you need about 7 different sized tubs by the time you cover kids bikes, your bike,buggy wheels and the like).
Share your plans and systems with the other adults, as then they know what will happen and can support it. Once you all know the systems it becomes easy.
4. Make it fun for them.
The whole thing about this is it should be fun, one of the key things to spot is when it stops being fun and the real aim is to stop 10 minutes before this point. Every bridge can be a troll bridge (“Who’s that trip trapping over my bridge?!”), try to incorporate things from films and stories, a trip to some standing stones for us became a visit to the trolls from Frozen. Bring in characters from the TV shows they like. One of the things our kids like is the fact that on an adventure treats are dished out far more regularly than at home. The food may not be a dietitians first choice, but its for one day and they are being super active.
5 Encourage don’t push
Remember for kids even climbing to above mummy and/or daddy’s head height is a huge achievement. They will not have the muscles to do more than a few climbs, so celebrate what they do manage.
Praising how hard they tried will get them to want to try harder, this is a long game you don’t need to rush.
6. Little and often
Get the kids out, even for just a few minutes. Go out in horrific weather for 10 minutes to jump in puddles. Let the kids know they will get cold and wet but that you have hot chocolate and dry gear waiting for them. Let the adventures that they find in a few trees or long grass dictate an afternoon. After a while just being out side will become the norm for them.
7. Lots of pieces make up the puzzle
Planning lots of small activities to fill a day is far easier than one long trek. Recently we managed to canoe, build a shelter, have a fire, play hide and seek, play pooh sticks and get back in time for tea. The canoe was short (about 2 km), the shelter was quick to put up, the fire well prepared, and as a day out it worked really well.
Its the most important investment you will ever make! Expect that doing anything will take a lot longer than it would for you on your own or a group of adults, as a parent you’ll know that already! Show the kids, involve them, be that snapping sticks and even things like setting a fire a 4 year old can do, if you invest the time to teach them. Spend the time running round getting them good on a bike, then they can cover huge distances while you walk. I can still remember being taught knots, map reading and how to light a fire by my Dad.
9. Make it your adventure as well
Choose the places that you will enjoy going to. Recently we took the kids on a bothy trip. It was a great adventure for us all, and the cheese with fresh bannochs (twists or dampers), cooked on the fire, was awesome!
10. Monkey see monkey do.
Let the kids see you going out, on your bike, for a run, getting muddy, working hard, swimming in rivers, splashing in the sea. You are the greatest role model they have, be the one you want them to have.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
– Willim Blake.
A huge thanks has to go to Handrei, Hannah, Robin, Lucy and Clare for helping to get me out and letting me get out.