Maybe you just had your first child and you want to maintain your adventurous lifestyle, or maybe you’re on kid number six and think it’s time to get back into the outdoors. Either way, our panel of expert adventure mommies and daddies dish their secrets to outdoor success with the kids.
1) Do something you and your spouse both love. “It definitely makes it easier that we’re both climbers,” says Jason Babkirk. “It also helps if you’re at the same level in the sport.” Whenever possible, pick an adventure that both you and your spouse enjoy. Usually, if you dig it, your kid will dig it too.
2) Don’t force your sport on your kid. Remember when your mom demanded you take piano lessons and you started getting high before each lesson just to spite her? Don’t repeat those mistakes with your own children. “I want him to do what he likes,” says Monica Curwen. “He just got a bike and he won’t have anything to do with it. But he loves being outside and that’s enough.”
3) Turn your everyday activities into a workout. “Anything can be a workout as long as you’re active,” says Jay Curwen. “On weekends, we ride into downtown to get lunch with Childon in a trailer. He loves it, and we’ll take the long way home to make it harder for us.” Instead of driving to the corner store, walk, or ride your bike to the store with the kid in tow.
4) Keep your adventures close to home. “The hardest part of getting outside with my kids is getting them to the woods,” says Mike Jackson, a triathlete and father of four. “They have short attention spans, so a long car ride isn’t ideal.” Instead of trying to reach the most remote section of woods, find trail systems that are close to home that you can hit on a regular basis.
5) Plan it all out. “We map everything out in advance,” says Mark Lundblad. “And we stick to it once we figure it out.” Schedule outdoor time with your family and make sure you honor the schedule. At the same time, be ready to take advantage of a free hour here and there. “If I find myself with some free time, I’m on my bike,” Monica Curwen says.
6) Get your kids hooked early. Experts say kids can sit in a baby backpack as soon as they’re old enough to hold up their head, a milestone that happens at about four months. The sooner you get them outdoors, the more they’ll like it when they’re old enough to complain.
7) Gear matters. There are plenty of jogging strollers out there, but only a few of them can go off road. An up-front investment in gear pays dividends down the trail.
8) Take lots of breaks. “No matter how old the child is, he’s gonna get bored with just walking on the trail,” says Andy Stalworth, a backpacker with three kids and twins on the way. “Sit down on the trail and explore everything. Look at rocks. Pick up sticks, and act as interested as your kids are.”
9) Get an early start. “I try to get into the woods the first thing in the morning,” Chuck Lee says. “The kids are well rested, they just ate, and they’re ready to do something fun. Plus, the trails are less crowded so you can move at your own pace.”
10) Ditch the kids every once in a while. Just as parents need a night out on the town for some occasional quality adult time, active parents need some time in the woods on their own. “I still like to get one day a week in where I get a hard five hour ride or really long run in. It’s necessary,” says Jay Curwen. Getting out on your own allows you to move at your own pace, so you’ll be less likely to push your kids during family adventure time.