When we rave about nature for families, we're mostly making the case for how beneficial the experience can be on its own. No great excursions needed. How just stepping out into the woods seems to bring you to a different world where kids often exercise their social, emotional, creative and physical muscles with little prompting required. So this post switches gears a bit. Here, we want to call attention to some adventures you can explore with your kids when your want to mix up how you spend time together in nature. There are lots of adventures you can try together, beyond what is listed here, so you can use this as a good place to start introducing some of the extreme activities out there.
Slacklining, like the picture above shows, is a sport where you walk across a line tethered between two fixed objects (often two trees). It's like what you'd expect in tightrope walking. And the slackline is the only equipment required. This activity can be done by walkers and older (imagine just standing beside them, holding their hand as they walk) and builds incredible balance and determination.
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing without the need for rope and harness equipment. Climbers often use climbing shoes, chalk and a landing pad. With that, when you find a solid rock, away you go. This activity can be done at crawlers and older (baby boulderers!) and exercises strength, agility and problem-solving skills.
03. Mini Tough Mudder
Maybe you've seen pictures of your friends covered in mud army crawling outdoors. Chances are they are taking part in an extreme race - possibly a Tough Mudder. Of course your kids can take part in an outdoor race, or extreme obstacle course. You can join up with a Mini Tough Mudder group or create your own backyard or backwoods experience. While the takeaways will vary greatly, this activity works for any age and is filled with lots of exercise and messy fun.
04. Mountain Biking
Unlike the first three adventures, this is fairly well known. Bikes in the woods. Don't have mountains? Find any hill or build your own mud-formed ramps. Don't have a kid who's biking yet? If they're moving you can try them out on a strider bike, scooter or any kind of wheels they might want to give a whirl. Wheels in the woods are adaptable to all ages and strengthens balance, problem solving and confidence.
Camping gives you a memorable outdoor adventure whether you're in your backyard or in the backwoods. If you haven't already tried this as a family, have no doubt that a night spent camping can work for pretty much any age (it's just the gear you bring that might change). And if this is already your thing, awesome. We hope you enjoy many a night looking up at the stars, cozied up in your sleeping bags and feeling and hearing nature all around you. There are lots of benefits, but our favorite is bonding with nature and each other.
06. Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Out of the woods a bit and into the lakes, wetlands or open water even, standup paddle boarding (SUP) has recently become a popular way to play in the water. With a surfboard and a paddle (easy enough to rent), you can explore the water much the same way you would with a kayak, except you're standing up. If your kids are old enough, they can go out on their own. If they are smaller, they can sit down on the front of your board as you paddle along. A nice bonus, after you work up a sweat, this can be a great board to jump off of into the water over and over again. Skills include balance, strength, problem solving and coordination.
Geocaching is like a worldwide scavenger hunt, an old-school Pokemon Go. Learn all about it here and you and your family will be well on your way to finding or hiding cache treasures for other geocachers near wherever you are. This is a great activity for all ages, although it really starts feel like the whole family is part of the discovery process starting at around age three or four. By doing it, you'll start to learn about coordinates, maps and navigation, as well as feeling connected to a larger community.
Does the idea of discovering edible plants in the wild give you pause? Me too. I'd venture that's the case for even the most experienced foragers too though. Know your plants before you eat them, always; you can never be too sure. But once you are sure, enjoying food from the wild is one of the simplest and most rewarding adventures. Arm yourself with a foraging guidebook or better yet, a foraging guide and taste away. The forest, local parks and even your yard can have tasty and beneficial edibles which you and your children can learn to identify and enjoy.
We often talk about enjoying the woods without a hike. Again, this is largely because you don't need to hike to enjoy the woods, especially if it's not your thing. But hiking can be a worthwhile family adventure, starting even when your little ones are babies. It's filled with so many physical benefits, not to mention the adrenaline rush of accomplishing something you weren't sure was possible. Find or create a hike that looks exciting for everyone - is there something along the way that is interesting (a storybook hike, a scavenger hike, a geocaching hike, etc.) or is the destination itself worthwhile (a beautiful setting, a zipline, a waterfall, a significant structure, a picnic, etc.)? There are lots of ways to spruce up an old-fashioned hike. And if your family is okay with the standard hike, without any frills, that's great too.
Pocketknives are a fantastic tool for kids to have at their disposal. It can help them problem solve and exercise creativity in the natural world, as well as work on their fine motor skills. Check out more on our thoughts here in our post, Why We Gave Our 4 Year Old a Pocketknife. Whittling is one such skill that can be introduced with a pocketknife early on. There are so many possibilities for what a child can create, and how they can enjoy this simple pleasure. And who knows, you as the adult may find you're just as interested if you give it a try yourself.
There are so many ways to enjoy the summer outdoors. If any of these adventures in nature make it into your day, we'd love to hear about your experiences. Happy adventures!