This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and-true trail voices around the country, and how trails impact the lives of Americans. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.
When chatting with our friend Chelsea Murphy, who is an “adventure mom” as well as the founder of She Colors Nature, about her experiences on the trail—including her #TrailMoments along her local section of the Great American Rail-Trail ™ in Washington State—we asked if she had any tips for getting outdoors with her family and kids.
As someone who has hiked, biked, skied, climbed and simply enjoyed being outside in nature and beyond with her family, she had a lot of fun stories and wisdom to share. Check out what she’s learned from their many experiences and her takeaways for planning your own #TrailMoments with kids!
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As a family, we try to engage with everything that nature has to offer us and aim to get outside for 30 minutes every day—whether that's big adventures like camping trips and backpacking, or little things like biking around our block or walking to the mailbox and picking flowers.
Through She Colors Nature, I try and show the most fun moments of my kids and me out on the trail, but we have a range of other moments, too. We’ve learned a lot from our adventures; here are some tips that help us make getting outdoors part of our everyday lives.
1Get Out There:
My first tip is to simply get outside and try different activities. If you find that whatever you’re doing isn’t your thing, don't feel guilty—it doesn't have to be everybody's thing, and you can try something else!
2Go with a Group:
For parents who want to get outside with their kids, I recommend going with a group. Whether it’s you or someone else, it’s helpful to have someone with experience along for whatever activity you’re doing. And if you don’t know someone yourself, there are plenty of organizations that focus on getting outside with kids.
3Lead With Patience:
This is probably my biggest tip: You need a lot of patience and to head out with the understanding that your expectations should be realistic. If your bar is high, lower your bar. If you expect to go for a mile, the reality may be that you make it 50 feet on the trail and then, all of a sudden, your kids are lying on the ground looking at rocks and trees, and just wanting to chill. I think it's important to understand that those moments and experiences that they're having—even if they’re different from your original plans—are important and big, too. Your adventure doesn't have to be epic to be worthwhile; adventures where you're just in nature walking with the kids are worthy and valuable as well. Patience and not having overly high expectations are the two tips I try to remind myself of every time that I get ready to go outside with my kids. When I do, and then my kids do more or go farther, I’m always wowed and shocked by what they achieve.
4Don’t Let Gear Grind You Down:
You don’t need technical gear for every adventure. If you're just interested in going hiking or walking in nature with your kids, you only need to get some comfortable shoes and some clothes that you don't mind getting dirty. Don't put them in anything that is going to crush your heart if they get it dirty or ripped. Just throw them in some play clothes and get going.
5Prepare Your Pack:
When packing for most outdoor outings, I like to suggest that most people carry the 10 essentials—but for parents, it’s more like the 20 essentials, because we just have to carry a little bit extra. When getting outdoors with kids, approximately five of those essentials are their favorite snacks. For us, that includes fruit snacks; if I want them to go a mile longer, they will for fruit snacks. It's really this amazing thing.
Relatedly, having a pack pre-packed is a great tip to help make it easier to get going. Even better, try putting that pack where you know your family will see it every day to serve as a gentle reminder to make time for those adventures. It might be a little bit hard, but it's always going to be rewarding.
Planning ahead will help set your adventure up for success and make your time on the trail more relaxing and joyful. If you plan ahead but something happens, then at least you’ll have your first-aid kit, cell phone service, or anything else that will make you feel comfortable on the trail. I recommend doing research on where you’re going before you go—there are apps that can help you plan and trail maps can be downloaded in advance so you have access to that information while you’re out there.
7Be Understanding and Kind to Yourself and Family:
When we get out on a trail, I like to remind my kids that some of this experience is new to me, too, and that I can’t always be completely ready and prepared for everything. That way, if something is new or scary, they understand that I can’t control everything, and it helps release me from the responsibility of ensuring that all will go perfectly.
More Kid Activities:
Have you recently discovered trails, or are you a long-time trail enthusiast? Either way, we hope you’ll share your “Trail Moments”—and the stories of how trails have impacted your life during COVID-19. Take the survey below, or share using #TrailMoments on social media.