Outdoor loving mum, Nell, shares with us her passion for the wilderness and how she extends this to her children. Whilst it can be challenging to wrangle the kids and get them outside hiking and camping, Nell gives us some great tips and explains the benefits of adventuring as a family. 

Many of us thrive on the thought of an adventure, but then the thought of taking your children along for the ride… might seem a little extra challenging. In the last two years our family has been embracing hiking, camping, and climbing with two young kids. They certainly make planning and execution a little complex and adventures often require quite a lot of adaption. Sometimes it really is hard work, but here are five important reasons why we do it anyway.

Little girl running with a stick on a boardwalk going through the mangroves.

Exploring the mangroves.

Healthy Body and Mind

It is obvious that outdoor adventures provide plenty of opportunities for kids to strengthen muscles, co-ordinate limbs and exercise their lungs. What may be less obvious is the benefit being immersed in nature will have on their mental well-being.

Over 500 studies around the world have been conducted on the restorative effects of natural environments on children. Research indicates that there is a correlation between the time spent in nature with reduced symptoms of ADHD and depression, improved mental cognition and creativity. Doctors in various countries are even prescribing ‘time in nature’ as a way to combat mental health challenges in children and adults.

Adventure mum Nell and her daughter wearing the Patagonia Down Sweaters while out in the wilderness together.

Photo by Jaime K.

Risk

Our mini human adventurers, along with other young mammals are intuitively geared toward risky play. Studies show that the aim of the game is to find the perfect mix of exhilaration and fear. It may seem counter intuitive to our evolutionary process, but researchers have found that it is a key ingredient to learn emotional regulation. Having to manage fear and anger during play allows kids to balance these feelings in all areas of life.

Adventurous girls leaping between boulders.

Finding the perfect balance of fear and Exhilaration.

Adventure is the perfect playground for risky play which allows kids to learn how to deal with their emotions. Exploring winding steep trails, climbing trees and rocks, jumping across flowing streams, building fires, wielding multi tools, racing down mountain bike trails and navigating ahead of your parents are all activities with risk that encourage children to manage their emotions and develop new skills.

Keep in mind that when it comes to risk, children are very good at finding there own limits and should never be pushed into a situation that they are resisting. As adventuring parents we can provide the opportunities for them to explore limits on their terms, while making sure the consequences don’t outweigh the fun.

Mother and son looking out over a bushy valley from a board walk.

Nell and her son on the Twin Falls Track in Springbrook

Stewardship

Spending time in wilderness areas, gazing up at forest giants or a night sky full of stars, fosters a love and sense of connection that no documentary can replace. These adventures in nature weave stories into children’s sense of self. They bring to life the importance of each plant, animal, rock and stream.

A little boy exploring Mount Tamborine's large trees.

Exploring the giant trees at Mount Tamborine.

Every adventure gives parents opportunities to model environmental stewardship, through our dialogue and our actions;

• Talk about the areas you visit, a little research in the planning process or simply stopping to read information signs can arm you with interesting tidbits to engage kids. For instance; “Did you know this used to be an active volcano? Can you imagine lava flowing down here!”
• Adopting the ethics of ‘Leave No Trace‘ is a simple way to make sure your family doesn’t impact the wilderness areas you adventure in and it gives your kids a great checklist to follow.
• Become part of the ‘Hike it Out‘ campaign which is aimed specifically at building a hiking culture that holds everyone responsible for their own rubbish and any they find along the way. I really enjoy involving my kids in this!
• Choose ethical brands like Patagonia, whose business practices and products support environmental conservation. Our family loves their Down Sweaters which come in both adult and kid’s styles as they are made of 100% recycled polyester rip-stop material and use NSF Global Traceable Down. This certification ensures that the animals have not encountered any unnecessary harm, have not been force fed or live plucked and the feathers are a by-product of the meat industry.

Little boy wearing the Patagonia Down Sweater looking at a large fallen tree.

Exploring Springbrook National Park.

Responsibility

Raising responsible children is high on most parents’ list of aspirations and outdoor adventure provides so many opportunities to support this.

Being a responsible adventurer begins with good planning and even young children can help. Make a pack list together. Encourage your children to suggest what they feel you will need on the outing, you can help with questions like:
“It might rain today, what clothing should we pack?”
“It’s going to be hot and we are walking up hills, what will our bodies need?”
“What happens if someone falls and has a grazed knee?”

At 3 and 6 years old our kids can remember a lot of what goes in the pack. Bug repellent, sunscreen, first aid kit, our CamelBak reservoir (which is a huge novelty), head torches and lots of snacks. We always pack waterproof shell jackets, which are perfect for unexpected rain or to keep the wind out. Our Patagonia Down Sweaters are invaluable for cooler months and nights under the stars. They are light weight, pack small and keep the kids toasty warm and happy. My kids and I each have one and we all love them. Kids will often be keen to carry their own backpack, ensure to get one that is appropriate for their age and allows them to carry an achievable load while being comfortable.

 

Mum and daughter rugging up with their Patagonia Down Sweaters

Photo by Jaime K.

Talk as a family about where you are going and what you will be doing. It’s great to have a couple of options and allow your children to make a choice, this gives them the feeling of being a part of the decision making. When you are out adventuring, encourage them to be involved when possible; reading trail signs, stopping for snacks as well as using maps and a compass to check navigation.

Life lessons are the best kind, so when appropriate let natural consequences be their teacher (also consider age in these lessons). Packing inappropriate snacks can lead to hungry tummies. Forgetting your jacket makes for a chilly afternoon. Risky play can lead to cuts, bruises, wet shoes, tired muscles… all of a sudden that last hill is feeling very hard. There is never any shame or blame at this point, just a reminder of actions that were taken and how they could be affecting how their body is now feeling.

Dad with his two kids stopping for a snack whilst out exploring the wilderness.

Stopping for snack after the most challenging water crossing yet.

Connection

When we think back on the points above, we discover an abundance of ways to build connection within our families. Time adventuring out in nature means time away from busy schedules, cleaning the house, homework, Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, daily routine and daily stresses. Bringing life back to the basics, slowing down, unplugging, taking time to breathe in the moment and finding happiness in the joy of playing… all of these things help us recenter as individuals and connect as a family.

At the end of the day, when I can sit down with our children, feet covered in mud, legs happily tired and have a conversation about the challenges and the discoveries that we have just shared…these are the moments that speak to my heart and the ones that our family will remember forever.

Mother carrying her daughter along a bushy trail.

Down for some mid-hike snuggles.

Let us know why you love getting outdoors with your kids, what you struggle with, or why you wish you could get outside with them more. We love hearing from adventurers of all ages, family dynamics, and abilities. Share your family adventures on Facebook and Instagram by tagging us @paddy_pallin or by using the hashtags: #PaddyPallin #ExperienceIsEverything. 

About The Author

admin

Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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