Outdoor adventure is a valuable component in a balanced life, and nobody needs it more than children. Although a set routine is usually good for the little ones, research shows that 85% of children crave more spontaneous adventure and it is actually crucial for their development.
As families grow, lifestyles get busier and budgets shrink, and microadventure comes to rescue. A concept introduced by British adventurer Alastair Humphreys, microadventures require creativity instead of time or money, and they are perfectly suited to involve the whole family in outdoor exploration.
Here are seven great microadventure tips to help your kids grow into capable outdoor enthusiasts.
1. Look at the world from a child’s perspective
How far from home do you need to go to feel adventurous? If you’re five, probably not that far. While adults usually want to tick new countries off their bucket list, little adventurers are content discovering new bugs, flowers, and rocks. Don’t force your child to marvel at the view - poking a muddy puddle with a stick will likely interest them much more!
Even the smallest “expedition” will make an impression. Think of a theme - is it time to look for the first signs of Fall, or perhaps to learn how to start a fire?
2. Play dirty
Most responsible parents love cleanliness and sanitary wipes, but research shows that children should actually be allowed to get dirty - and maybe even eat a little dirt. Although licking the metro floor is probably a really bad idea, eating with muddy hands in the forest is actually a great one. And scientists link resilience to bacteria with resilience to stress. Let your child get dirty outdoors and they will become more relaxed adults.
3. Be a good teacher
Learning can be fun! Teaching your children an appreciation for the natural world and adventure is a lifelong gift. Beyond honing their backcountry skills, roaming in the outdoors will help your child develop independence, self-confidence and grit that will carry them through their academic and professional life.
4. Scale the adventure
For the young ones, any break from the routine involves embracing the unknown - which is the very spirit of adventure. Change something up and let your children do something for the first time. Examples of great firsts include: first night under the stars, first fire-cooked dinner, first time wading a creek, first time foraging for berries, first time to a “mountain” peak or the first time searching for a lucky clover.
5. Plan ahead
Adventuring is all about embracing the spirit of the unknown, but you had better make sure that there is some dinner in your backpack in case the fish aren’t biting. Take into account that your mini-me will not only get bored more easily but will tire, get hungry and cold much more easily than you do. It is your job to be well prepared and keep the whole family safe.
Involve your children in planning and let them take small responsibilities. A toddler can carry a map in their little backpack, and a twelve-year-old can be entrusted with preparing a first-aid kit for your microadventure (and they don’t even need to see you check it before you set off).
Most importantly, remember that in order to adventure with the whole family, you don’t need to break the bank, pay for an epic Yosemite trip or see the Grand Canyon. There are over ten thousand state parks in the U.S., not to mention that the local city park can be a whole new land for a toddler.