Getting outside is not always easy. Sometimes I simply do not feel like getting everything ready for another adventure. Some days the little humans are challenging all my well-intentioned plans. And still other times, the weather is just too cold or too hot and I do not want to deal with it. Sometimes I need encouragement! When this happens, I sort of enter autopilot and need things to be easy and predictable. My children are the same way. Aren’t most people? These are the following ways we encourage ourselves to get outside.
Don’t get me wrong. I love adventuring with my kids. I love it so much that I try so hard to push past all my hold ups and lazy moods to get outside with them. Of course, fighting my lazy and indoor loving moods is difficult. To do it, I need goals and already-in-place plans to make the adventure feel less difficult.
How we Encourage Ourselves to Get Outside
As a self-proclaimed lover of the indoors, getting outside isn’t always easy for me. My kids need me to push past my desire to remain indoors, and honestly, I need me to push past this particular inclination as well.
There are very few things that I enjoy more than curling up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and a good book. Lucky for my kids, instilling a love of the outdoors in them is one of them.
The first thing I did to help me put the books down and get off the comfy couch was find an outdoor-focused group to join. I used the group to find the encouragement I needed to get outside often and even enjoy myself in the process. Hike it Baby provided this for me about three years ago (which is when I co-founded the Butte County, California Branch). Since then, I have discovered other organizations that continue to help us get outside!
Outdoor Focused Challenges I Love
This is one of my favorite challenges because it really helps us see how far we’ve come each month and gives us a general goal for how much time to spend outside each day. Plus, you can download a free tracker to color in the hours you spend outside. This makes for a neat visual and a fun activity to do as a family.
This is also the hardest challenge for our family. For one, I am horrendous at actually tracking our time outside. I keep trying though. And then apparently, we do not spend an average of four hours outside each day during the winter. So watching how far behind we are falling to meet the average is a bit disheartening. BUT, this is not a competition and I know if we do not make it to 1000 hours outside by the end of this year, we absolutely will next year!
I stumbled onto this challenge a couple of years ago, but didn’t actually enter the challenge until this year. The idea is to go hiking 52 times in a year, which boils down to about one hike per week. For me, this is a breeze, since we hike easily 2-4 times per week. For avid hikers, they have differing levels of the challenge. One of them is to hike a different trail for each hike you count toward the challenge. This is the one I chose because we move around so much hiking 52 different trails is theoretically an easy goal for us to accomplish. Even though it is an easy goal for us, this challenge still motivates me to find interesting and challenging hikes for our family.
Twice a year, Hike it Baby hosts a fundraising outdoor challenge for families. We do not always join in, but when we do it adds a little something special to our outdoor experiences that month. The original idea behind HiB30 was to get outside with your family and hike 30 miles over the course of a month or to get outside for 30 minutes each day. This has morphed a bit, but the idea is still essentially the same. April 2021 (next month) is right around the corner and HiB30 registration comes with a PDF workbook for children, a Facebook Group for participating families, and activities and games to help you get outside regularly each day.
Programs and Family Practices that Help Us Get Outside
As we travel through state and national parks, the children work toward earning a Junior Ranger badge at each one that offers the program. This involves completing a workbook and exploring the park a bit. The kids have too many badges to count and are still earning them often. When we finish traveling fulltime (whenever that is) we will still utilize these programs on vacations because they really do add so much to the park experience. When the kids find out there is a Junior Ranger badge to be earned, they generally push us to get to the park so they can get their badge.
State and National Parks
At the same time, just visiting state and national parks gets us outside more. These spaces are typically beautiful areas with many hiking trails or neat nature to explore. Just being in these parks increases our time outside because we are drawn to explore, view wildlife, and learn about the area.
This is one of the reasons we often strive to stay in state and national parks on our travels. We are more likely to get outside, even if it is just in our campsite, when we have some space to ourselves. RV parks tend to be crowded with rigs all jam-packed together. It makes it hard to enjoy being outside when your table/fire pit/play area is right next to your neighbor’s sewer hookup.
12 Monthly AdventureS 2021
The wonderful Jemma of @thimbleandtwig shared late in 2020 that her family creates adventure goals for each month of the year. I instantly fell in love with this idea and made sure my family did the same for 2021. I told them the idea and then asked everyone to brainstorm all the adventures they want to do this year. Once we had a long list, we all helped narrow it down to 12. I picked from the 12 which one we would do each month based on the area of the country where we plan to be.
So far it has been an amazing experience and it is something I plan to continue indefinitely. It is only March and we’ve already searched for fossils, hiked a long hike, and climbed a mountain.
Playgrounds and zoos
These are just easy ways to get us outside. If we are in an area without much nature to explore, there are always playgrounds we can explore. In Deming, New Mexico, pretty much everything (including the 3 nearby state parks) were closed to out of state visitors because of Covid-19. So we went on a Tour of Playgrounds. We visited three in one day and had an absolute blast and spent a ton of time outside.
Zoos and other outdoor museums also prove to be wonderful ways to spend time outside together. We can spend hours strolling through a zoo, searching for critters in their cages, and finding our favorites. It is an easy way to keep the kids engaged outside, while also learning about animals.
Outdoor open ended play
Just like in a home that doesn’t move, there is an outdoor space right outside our front door. We encourage the kids to go out and play as often as we can, even when we are not quite feeling it ourselves. One way we keep them occupied is with open-ended outdoor toys. They have shovels, buckets, outdoor play kitchen supplies, chalk, water toys, and more. These toys enable them to explore the area where our home is parked.
Sometimes we can hang up our hammocks, sometimes our campsites have large rocks or logs for climbing, sometimes we are right next to a body of water, and sometimes the ground we are parked on is sand. Since it changes weekly, the kids have to slowly warm up the space each time (meaning they don’t want to go outside without a parent), and they get a new place to explore too.
I want my children to learn about nature and through nature, which is why I choose curriculum that aligns with this desire. We don’t really use just one curriculum, but pepper in activities from each of the curricula I have on hand. I love all of these curricula and highly recommend them.
- Blossom and Root – full year-long grade level specific multiple subject curriculum
- Exploring Nature with Children – year-long nature study curriculum that is adaptable to many ages
- Niños and Nature – Spanish language learning with an emphasis on nature
- Wild Math – full year-long grade level specific math curriculum
I would be a fool if I did not plug myself here. Not only do I create unit study printables (like the frog one below), but The Wanderland Travel Guides I’ve been busy creating are a roadschooling immersive curriculum aimed at getting families outside and exploring the nature and culture around them on their travels (whether fulltime or vacation). They are state specific and they help me incorporate state specific ideas, adventures, and learning into our roadschooling.
In sum: Just get outside
It isn’t always easy to get outside. It really isn’t. But, the benefits of pushing past your hang-ups and finding a balance that works for your family so outweighs the hard bits.
Is there a playground near your house? What about a short 1 mile nature trail? Go there. Often.
Before we started traveling, we walked the same 2-3 nature trails and visited the same 2-3 playgrounds. We added in longer or new trails occasionally, but really we explored the same trails and playgrounds. This repetition is brilliant and so healthy for children. So, do not ever doubt that you are doing it wrong when you go explore the same place over and over again.
Nature experts even recommend doing this. Exploring the same place in different seasons and at different times of day really provides you with a more intimate understanding of that particular natural area.
How do you encourage yourself to get outside?