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Trips to nurture love of nature

By Lynn O’Rourke Hayes, FamilyTravel.com
Published: June 8, 2024, 5:09am

Nurture your family’s interest in the natural world. Here are five ideas to consider.

Opt for outside fun

A slew of experts agree that regular, unstructured outside play is critical for a child’s healthy development.

To that end, encourage youngsters to head out the door with the freedom to roam, staying safe within set boundaries, guided by their age, environment and experience. Whether at home or on holiday, help them notice nature’s gifts by collecting colorful rocks, pine cones, acorns or shells.

Craft a plan for engaging in regular outdoor activity as a family. Encourage cross-country or downhill skiing, snow-shoeing and hiking on local trails, biking and walking, with curiosity, around your own neighborhood or local community.

When exploring together, encourage your kids to notice the way water flows in a stream, how the leaves rustle in the trees and the movement of creatures large and small.

Start slowly

Eager for a grand adventure with the kids? Begin with short outings and work up to longer, more challenging hikes or biking trips. Test the waters by throwing up a tent in your backyard before embarking on a backpacking trip. Visit an indoor climbing gym to assess skills and interest. Gauge your child’s readiness for a bigger adventure not just by their physical abilities but how they handle the unexpected.

Of course, gearing up and planning for future endeavors is part of the fun.

Share stories of your own adventures. There are also countless videos, movies and educational classes available via the internet that could serve as a compelling introduction to new parts of the world. You’ll also find information about challenging outdoor sports like climbing, kayaking and backcountry skiing that may spark the interest of a developing outdoor enthusiast.

For more: www.rei.com

Flexibility is key

Whether hiking in Zion National park, paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or camping in your backyard, flexibility is important. Kids, particularly younger ones, will want to throw rocks in the creek, stomp through a puddle or linger to watch a caterpillar crawl.

That’s part of the fun.

And when the unexpected rainstorm descends or the flurries fly without warning, it’s always good to have a plan B. For many, those unforeseen moments make for the best memories.

For more: www.nps.gov

On the trail with teens

No matter what kind of trip is planned, allowing a teenage son or daughter to invite a friend to join in the fun is often a good strategy. But, it can be a little trickier when planning an outdoor adventure. You’ll want to make sure the friend is up to the challenges the trip may present. It’s a good idea to talk details with the other parents ahead of time and perhaps plan a practice outing to make sure everyone is comfortable with the itinerary and activities.

Whether it’s a mountain climb or rafting a river, finding a shared goal that will challenge and excite your teen is a great way to open new doors within your relationship and to the natural world.

Outdoor adventure creates confidence

Finishing a long hike, paddling through rapids or even crafting the perfect campsite can go a long way toward building confidence in kids. What’s more, numerous studies have shown that time spent in nature can reduce stress, improve attention and increase motivation. There is plenty to learn in a traditional school setting, but it’s good to know that nature’s lessons provide powerful benefits.