When the going gets tough, the tough get going—outdoors
Make outdoor adventures work when big-budget vacations won’t
Champaign, IL—Hard economic times have forced many families to forgo annual vacations. But outdoor enthusiasts Courtenay and Doug Schurman, authors of The Outdoor Athlete (Human Kinetics, 2009), suggest saving a few dollars by staying close to home and taking a family vacation in the great outdoors. They offer six tips for hiking as a family and enjoying nature together:
1. Set realistic expectations. Consider the age of the child and toss out any expectations that hiking is the same as it was before you had children. The younger the child, the slower the pace will be whenever the child is on foot. Younger children may be more willing to be carried, which could enable your family to cover more distance, Schurman notes.
2. Choose interesting venues. Select hikes near scenic waterways, along interesting beaches, or in fields of flowers. Children will be more apt to enjoy themselves because of the interesting things to look at. Choose outings where the trail is the enjoyable part, since views or vistas don’t offer as much of a reward to children. Schurman advises including nurse logs, interesting caves, or other natural spectacles because these can be a fun way to introduce nature to children.
3. Bring tasty snacks. Kids always look forward to unusual snacks and frequent juice breaks, so be sure to bring lots of treats on the hike. Involve children before the hike by letting them help prepare homemade trail mix or pick healthy treats like teddy bear graham crackers, yogurt pretzels, or cranberry raisins. “Establishing a tradition of a picnic at the end of the destination or a special snack after the hike can make the trip memorable and help kids look forward to the next adventure,” Schurman says.
4. Be flexible. Be willing to change objectives at any time. If it starts to rain, and rain gear is accessible, turn the trip into a puddle-jumping trip or a worm-hunting trip. If children are more fascinated by flowers or snails, slow down and don’t worry about reaching a final destination. When children get cranky or tired, be willing to take an easier route or go somewhere that was successful in the past. Schurman advises enjoying the event rather than the result. “If you teach your children at a young age that being outside is fun, rewarding, exciting, and desirable, as they get older, if they already have an appreciation for all nature has to offer, they will want to continue to explore.”
5. Bring a friend. Kids often have more fun with a friend than they would with just parents. Schurman suggests bringing along a playmate for your child.
6. Entertain the child. For adults, the hike is the entertainment, but that isn’t always the case for kids. During harder parts of the hike, children may start to lag from fatigue, but having some games to distract them can help turn an otherwise difficult hike into an enjoyable outing. “Try playing I Spy, and have them find the object by name, or play a rhyming game and ask your child to make a rhyme with interesting things you see while walking,” Schurman suggests. “Hiking is a great way to get some exercise, explore your surroundings, and turn your kids on to the joys of the mountains, forests, trails, and local waterfalls,” Schurman says.
The Outdoor Athlete offers workouts and programs for 17 activities, including alpine mountaineering, trekking, rock climbing, trail running, snowshoeing, and skiing. The book also includes nutritional considerations for each activity and information on environmental factors affecting participation and training.
For more information on The Outdoor Athlete or other recreation books, visit www.HumanKinetics.com or call 800-747-4457.