While being active as a family is so much fun, starting with a few basic tips can save you headaches and disappointment!
It is very important to me that my kids be involved in our outdoor adventures. I want to let them discover how amazing nature is and how exciting it can be to be adventurous! As I introduce my 5 year old and 9 year old to various activities, I am learning and want to share of few tips with you!
As a family, we enjoy camping, paddleboarding, hiking and biking. For the first couple of years of being parents, we almost gave up on these activities but it just felt like too much work to make it happen. From experiencing the outdoors with my partners to dragging kids into it, there is definitively a learning curve!!
Here are 5 tips to ensure an enjoyable nature experience!
1. PLAN AHEAD
I am not saying that you have to have a ‘bulletproof” plan but a little research beforehand goes a long way.
For camping you obviously need to book a site and they tend to book quickly. If camping is on your radar, start early in the season to see what is available. When it goes to hiking or biking, have a look a trailheads and distance options.
Include the kids in the research phase, they love to be involved in that part too and can start getting excited about the experience.
Check the weather conditions so you can bring the right gear. As parents we tend to overpack. If you did your research, you will save yourself the extra load.
Investigate the terrain too. If you are camping in Long Point Provincial Park the sites are sandy, plan accordingly (and don’t forget the sand toys!). If you decide to bike or hike in Turkey Point, remember that the terrain is a bit more treacherous. Ensure that the bikes or footwear is appropriate for the conditions.
2. KEEP IT FUN!
It is sometimes frustrating when kids are ready to head back to the car 5 minutes into the activity. That happened to me more than once and I remembered feeling so discouraged and just thinking it was not worth it. I realized that when a game is part of the adventure, everybody stops focusing on how “hard” the activity is and starts to have more fun!
For hiking bringing a bag along to pick up small things is always fun. They can look for cool leafs, rocks, pine cones, walnuts, branches. At the #GoNorfolk event last week at Quance Park in Delhi, I had a sheet and a bag for each family with color swatches. Kids were to find something in nature of each color. Each family was on a mission to discover all the items needed. I didn’t see one child who wanted to turn around before they had found everything!
A scavenger hunt can be fun too! Don’t make it overly complicated but get them excited about the mission.
If you are on the water with paddleboards, kayaks or a canoe it is so much fun to pretend you are pirates and that you are on a expedition. Don’t be afraid to pull up at islands or shore to go explore. Get your “matey” voice out and they will enjoy the journey! Arrr!!
This is pretty much number one on my list. My kids love to snack and I notice that they keep going farther with the promise of refreshment ahead.
Bring a backpack and fill it up with yummy stuff your kids like. Nuts, seeds, granola bars, cheese strings, apples, dried fruits…
Keep it healthy and make sure to keep your garbage in your pack. I like to give snacks in small doses to keep them going. “Let’s bike another kilometer and then we will stop”
Set small goals and reward the kiddos with some food. If they complete the journey, another food reward works well with my kids. How about an expedition at Deer Creek Conservation Area and a pit stop for a milkshake at Andy’s Drive In? Lots of water is important too. If you plan on going on many adventures, a small pack for your kids and a good reusable bottle of water is key. Let them pack their own bags so they feel empowered even before the activity starts.
4. REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Little people have small legs, short attention spans and get tired quickly. Keep that in mind in your planning. Remember that the more you do it, the more stamina they will have and the easier things will get. As adults, we often think that we need to finish the whole trail or get to the end to complete an adventure. Leave that thought at the front door of your house as you leave. Realistically, if your kids are only getting started on outdoor adventures, they will likely get tired roughly 15-20 minutes in. (if not sooner!) Go in with the mindset that just getting out is a win and that they will learn to love it. Any distance is an accomplishment. When you start with high expectations, you get discouraged quickly and want to stop going. When you set realistic goals that are suitable for the age of your kids, everybody will have a blast! Choose locations wisely. Hay Creek Conservation Area is a great place to introduce your kids to hiking. Waterford Ponds is fantastic to start paddle sports and choose campgrounds that are close to your home for the first few times. The local Conservations Areas offer amazing camping spots with fun family friendly activities.
Let the kind words flow! Kids need a lot of encouragement!! If they can sense that you are getting frustrated, they will too. We were all beginners at one point, keep that approach in mind. Even if they made it 2 mins into the trail that is still better than not trying at all and staying on the couch. I don’t know about your kids but mine tend to be stubborn… Don’t overload them with tips, sometime more we say, more discouraged they feel. Let them explore as you get started. As long as it is safe, let them try on their own and wait patiently. Provide lots of positive reinforcement to boost their confidence. Soon they will be seeking your help to improve their performance. Start simple and keep challenging them as you try the activity again. Support them with lots of “wow, you are doing amazing”. Confidence goes a long way to getting them hooked to outdoor sports. Get them involved too, let them help you even if it is not exactly how you would do things yourself. When you setup your tent and let them help you with the tent and give them jobs (set up the sleeping arrangement…) and then, praise them for their good work. I bet next time they will take ownership of the task. Let them read the maps and the signs so they can learn and feel like they are leading the way. The trails network in Norfolk County is amazing. It is easy to see how far you travel when walking on biking on the Lynn Valley Trail. Badges of accomplishment for the number of kilometers will get your kids super excited!
So get off the couch and start exploring Norfolk County with your family. Don’t be too attached to results and just have fun being together outdoors! I encourage you to post your pictures of you being active in Norfolk by using the hashtag #GoNorfolk. Empower others to move in Ontario’s Garden!
LIVE BROADCAST August 23 at 2pm: I will be live with kiddos Wednesday August 23rd at 2pm from Ralphy’s Retreat on Norfolk Tourism’s facebook page! Join me as I explore this sanctuary and have fun being outdoors with my kids!!
Here is my top Norfolk County locations for family fun:
- Hay Creek Conservation Area
- Backus Conservation Area
- Waterford Ponds
- Deer Creek Conservation Area
- Long Point Provincial Park
- Turkey Point Provincial Park
- Lynn Valley Trail
Amélie Chanda is a Norfolk County based wellness coach with a passion for active living. She works with individuals and organizations that are ready to make a commitment to a healthy life. She provides support, tools and motivation to help her clients reach their health goals. In 2017 she launched the #GoNorfolk community initiative to empower people to get off the couch and to explore Norfolk County. She is now the Active Living Ambassador for Norfolk County.