One of the items on my list of 12 resolutions for getting outside is scheduling a date in nature with your kids. If your kids are still very young or you play outdoors a lot anyway, these one-on-one experiences may seem unnecessary.
But trust me. They are very necessary.
I try to do something special outside with each of the kids separately once a week – even it’s just a walk around the block or a trip to the park. This is our time to connect not only with each other, but also with the world around us.
While some of these adventures are purely spontaneous, others require a little more planning. In either case, here are a few things I’ve found to help make the most of your special time together. (Truth be told, many of our adventures in nature are as a threesome, but the advice here holds true just the same.)
Make a date.
Decide on a good day and time for both you and your child – something that works with any of your current obligations. Make your nature date a priority by adding it to the calendar. You don’t need to carve out a ton of time; what’s most important is getting outside together.
Choose the right adventure.
Is there something your nature explorer especially enjoys – maybe hunting for bugs, skipping rocks or climbing trees?
You don’t have to go anywhere grand or far away. It’s more important that you do something fun than that you get overzealous in the planning.
Talk it up.
Once you’ve set a date and decided on an activity, make sure your child knows about it. This makes the date extra-special; something to look forward to. Depending on where you go, you might even read related books ahead of time about your upcoming adventure.
Do a little prep work.
If we’re going anywhere beyond our backyard or a walk around the neighborhood, I bring along our adventure bag. In it, I carry a change of clothes (along with weather-appropriate gear like hats, gloves, jackets, boots), snacks or a picnic, water, sunscreen, a camera, notepad and pen, field guides and whatever else we might need.
Let your child take the lead.
You’ve picked a great place to explore and maybe even something special to do while you’re there. But guess what? Your child has an entirely different idea.
Like chasing butterflies instead of going on a scavenger hunt. Or wanting to skip a hike in favor of geocaching. What to do? Go with it. These are the moments you can’t plan. And the ones you won’t forget. Be joyful in the moment. And connect.
Really, this should be Rule No. 1. Have fun, be silly and laugh. A lot. Let loose and play like a kid. When you do, you won’t just connect with your child. You’ll remember what it’s like to be a kid again. And I promise you won’t be disappointed.