Kelly Brown, an avid backpacker and rock climber living in Knoxville, has enjoyed introducing his children to the wonders of the outdoors. At 18 months, his son Tanner could hike a 2 1/2 mile trail and pick up a nonvenomous snake.
“The light that filters through the leaves, the smell of a campfire, listening to a waterfall—I had experienced these things before, but when you do it with your child, you are a lot more aware,” says Brown.
Phyllis Newbill’s youngest son, Collin, was two weeks old when he spent his first night in a tent. Her family goes camping two or three weeks a year, along with lots of deck- and backyard-camp outs. Newbill’s advice: expect the unexpected. For example, on their most recent camping trip, their youngest daughter got sick. Fortunately, the illness passed quickly. “Her appetite was revived by the presence of s’mores later that evening,” recalls Newbill.
Although she recommends packing a few toys with the camping gear, she also suggests that parents allow lots of time for the kids to explore. “Don’t worry about it if they get dirty. They’ll wash.”
With kids, a walk in the woods doesn’t always go as planned—but that can be part of the fun. Dan Stevralia and his nine-year-old daughter Sarina recently got lost on the trail. “We walked an extra mile or two before deciding to retrace our steps,” he recalls. Tired and hot, the day was going from bad to worse. Then Sarina discovered a blueberry patch. “Her enthusiasm was infectious. The refreshing treat helped turn a bad day out into one of our most memorable hikes.”
No matter what your passion is, if you share it with your kids, chances are you’ll learn to enjoy it even more. “Kids are able to find the fun in everything,” Stevralia says. “As adults, we lose sight of that.”
Outdoor Advice for Parents
Slow down. Our son doesn’t care about when the hike ends; he just enjoys being out there.
We plan smaller trips when traveling with our daughter, so if we have to cut it short there is no disappointment. If we get to do more, it’s a bonus.
When camping, arrive at the campground early in the day. Set up a Winnie-the-Pooh tent—or other kid-related billboard—to ward off any folks who really don’t want to camp next to little kids.
Throw back your head and laugh out loud with enjoyment. Hold wild creatures of all kinds. Remember how wonderful it is to share special moments with those you love most.
The smallest things get the most attention. It’s not the view; it’s the snail or the hermit crab.