Seven Top Tips for a Family Adventure from Wild Roots Highland Guiding
Experienced Winter and Summer Mountain Leader, Keela ambassador, and mum to her little girl, Anna Danby, shares with us her best advice for organising adventures for the whole family.
Getting outside for adventures can involve a lot of planning and effort at the best of times, but when children are involved, it’s even more so. It can be overwhelming just thinking about getting outdoors with kids, but in my experience, it’s undoubtedly worth making the effort. The moment you step out the door, the fun begins and any of the hassles of getting to that point feel worthwhile.
We know that people of all ages can thrive outside, but like everything, it can take a bit of practice to get the family used to new places and situations. Just don’t be put off if your first foray into the wild as a family doesn’t go exactly to plan, keep trying, and soon enough you’ll find the things that work for you.
So, with that in mind, here are some of my top tips for successful family adventures in the outdoors.
1. Start small
It’s easy to get carried away with ambitions of mountain summits and camping wild. These are great things to aim for once you’ve had some practice, but micro adventures are just as rewarding and a great place to start.
Go to places that are familiar to you, but new to the kids, that way there are fewer logistics to worry about like finding your way or what the environment is going to be like. You can concentrate on exploring the place through your kids’ eyes and discover things you never noticed before!
Make sure to keep the time outdoors relatively short, so everyone leaves wanting more and feeling happy with positive memories from the day.
2. Get used to all weathers
We are lucky enough up here in Scotland to experience all kinds of weather, very often all in one day!
This means that if we want to spend time outside, we need to know how to enjoy them all, and like everything, that takes practice. Instead of being put off by the weather, adapt your adventures to suit the conditions. Make sure you have appropriate clothing to keep you all warm and dry.
Maybe think about the sort of location that will work for the weather, do you need shelter down low on a windy day? Shade from the sun in the forest? Some water to cool off in? Can you get back quickly if the weather changes?
Most importantly learn to embrace the rain! Put on waterproofs like Keela’s Puddle Bug suit, go jump in puddles and enjoy warming up with a hot chocolate afterwards.
3. Don’t let moaning stop you
People can find the idea of going outside unappealing, especially when the weather is wild. But don’t let any apprehension stop you, think about the right adventure for the occasion and once you’ve started, most of the time you’ll find everyone is enjoying themselves after all – they just needed reminding how much fun adventures are.
4. Make it interesting
I never call it a ‘walk’, if I did my daughter wouldn’t come. Instead, we go on ‘expeditions’, ‘treasure hunts’, ‘dinosaur tracking’, and ‘secret exploring missions’.
Often when children say they are tired and can’t go on, what they mean is they are bored. Why not give them a log to balance on, a race to complete, or a special kind of leaf to find and suddenly they are full of energy again!
Choose routes where there will be lots of interest, both underfoot and things to see. Use all your senses to explore as you go along, what does it look like? Feel like? Smell like? I find it way more difficult to get my 4-year-old to walk 1km on a tarmac pavement in town than I do up a rocky mountain path.
5. Snacks are king
Let’s be honest, most of us are motivated in some way by food and even more so when being active in the fresh air.
Hungry people are grumpy people, so don’t forget to take loads of supplies on all adventures. Think about what you would normally eat in a day at home and take at least double and plenty of water too.
6. Give them responsibility
Youngsters love playing a part in planning and leading adventures. Look at maps and pictures of places together and let them help choose where and what you are going to do.
That way, they are much more motivated to make it happen. Give them a map (or even better get them to make one) and compass and let them lead the way, even if they have no idea initially it will keep them entertained and over time the skills start to sink in.
7. Have fun
Lastly and most importantly, have fun, as time outside comes in so many different forms do what works for you.
Experiment with different things to discover what you and your family enjoy the most.
You might have some disasters along the way but instead of being put off by them learn from them.
Soon enough you’ll work out the ingredients needed to make your perfect family adventure.