There is a misconception that once parents have young children to raise, their adventuring spirit and love of the great outdoors must take a back seat. Sure, adventures might not occur on such a grand scale, and any plans you make will need to accommodate the needs of your little ones, however they can still play a role in your family’s life. Outdoor adventures bring huge benefits to you and your kids; especially in a post-COVID world, where nature’s playground takes on a renewed significance.
You may be thinking how can I plan outdoor adventures with my infant or toddler in a way that goes smoothly? It’s a very valid question, and luckily, our friends at Jumply are here to lend a helping hand. They’re on a mission to build strong connections with our kids through play, adventure and travel; offering a range of gear specially designed to support your journeys. Here are their top tips to inspire parents and help you instil a love for the outdoors in your young children.
Start early and make regular outdoor play a priority
The first step to nurturing an adventuring spirit in your family is to make it a regular activity and develop a rhythm for your little ones. The more exposure infants and toddlers have to exploring the wonders of the outside world plus all the preparations that come along with it, the more it will spark their cooperation and enthusiasm. Research shows that young children become more attentive and focused after playing in natural settings, so don’t assume there’s a need to wait until they’re older.
Understanding these opportunities for development also will help motivate you as parents when things inevitably get messy! Outdoor play may seem more risky, but it’s important for kids to learn through play which involves getting grubby and dealing with different heights, surfaces and textures, whether it’s the sand from the beach between their toes, or mud and pebbles by a stream.
Finding the landscapes that work best for your family will only come from trial and error, but a safe proximity to amenities is your best bet. Where you live and the distance you’re willing or able to travel will also set the boundaries for these adventures, as will your adherence to current health department guidelines. It’s okay to start small and expand from there, and you can take comfort in the fact you’re engaging in socially-distanced activities.
Equip yourself with go-anywhere, kid-friendly gear
A major obstacle for many parents in considering adventures or travel with infants and toddlers, is the feeling of being ill-prepared and confusion over what to bring. Without the right gear, your plans can fall apart fast and set the tone for your family’s enjoyment. Harder still, is the ability to source appropriate baby and toddler gear that has been designed for outdoor settings and contains the required functionality. Hint: check out Jumply’s range of gear designed to meet these needs!
The age of your children and associated level of care will of course shape your family’s overall mobility and the gear you might need. For instance, you’ll find that a stroller will impede movement on certain terrain, and you may want to consider investing in a child carrier for a smoother journey.
Regardless of the outdoor activity, a parent’s arsenal should include a lightweight yet rugged backpack with room to store all the usual essentials (plus a first aid kit). This should be paired with a fold-out changing mat for changing on the go, which can function on hard, soft and otherwise unpredictable surfaces. Sticking to one multipurpose bag will ensure you don’t exceed your own carry capacity.
What to look for in an adventure bag:
• Plenty of internal pockets, including an easy access pouch at the front
• Separate nappy compartment to maintain hygiene throughout the day
• Water repellent material to protect against the odd sun shower or downpour
• Wet/dry compartment to keep things fresh an organised
• Washable or wipe-clean lining to cut down on work
Involve kids in the preparation
Giving kids their own backpack to tackle adventures will help them feel included and foster an adventuring spirit. Remember that kids thrive on modelling the behaviour of their parents, and as they see you packing your bag, you can begin to teach them a sense of responsibility with their own. Remember to make sure that the contents and weight of the bag are appropriate for their age, so it doesn’t slow them down.
If you have an infant who is too young to carry one, you can always keep their hands busy with sun smart accessories such as flexi-frame sunglasses that are designed for little ones and virtually indestructible. Special snack bags reserved for your adventures is another way to build anticipation in kids for outdoor adventures and tame their restlessness. The aim of the game is to give them some sense of control and establish a positive association with your outdoor expeditions.
Tear up the itinerary and embrace unstructured play
Adventuring with kids is more about the journey than the destination, and you must be prepared to adapt your well-meaning plans. Parents can become fixated on completing a set activity as a marker of a trip’s success, whereas kids are often more preoccupied with other sights, smells and sounds. Taking a leaf out of their book will help you maintain realistic expectations. It will also help reduce stress by trying to control the activity agenda and letting the experience flow naturally.
While learning about phenomena in the natural world, outdoor adventures should be an opportunity for unstructured, yet supervised play. By all means, set up guided activities such as animal spotting or shell collecting, but allow room for kids’ creative freedom. In fact, government health recommendations for 1 to 5 year olds, specify that play should allow children to:
• Practice a range of different movements
• Use their imagination to make up their own games
• Experience a variety of play spaces and equipment
• Set up their own play areas
• Feel empowered by what they can do
At the end of the day, kids will be kids, so expect some dirty clothes along the way. However if you stay the course and ensure you’re well-prepared, the rewards for outdoor adventuring with kids will far outweigh the negatives.
Article featured on: Kiddipedia