Spending time together with your kids is a gift (and who knew we would be gifted quite so much this spring!), but it’s easy for those anticipated family outings to become unhappy battlegrounds. While there’s no guarantee that every trip will be wonderful, these tips may help get you there most of the time.
It’s important to decide what your priorities are before heading out the door. If you have a rigid expectation of what is supposed to happen or have boxes you feel you need to check off then you miss the opportunity for input from your kids or the joy in watching them make unexpected discoveries. The connection between you and your kids over a shared experience should be first and foremost on the list.
It can be challenging to meet everyone’s needs, but a bit of creative thinking can get you there.
If you have a mixed age group and enough adults, consider splitting up so any older kids with high energy don’t have to hold back for those with smaller legs. If that’s not possible, give the older kids challenges like hopping on one foot for a length of time, running ahead a short distance and back, or finding specific items in an impromptu scavenger hunt.
Take frequent breaks to notice the area. Whether you’re in a neighborhood, a backyard, or one of our many local trails; there is plenty to see while you’re out. Take pictures for an online nature journal, bonus points if you can identify what you photograph! Bring a sketchbook, notebook, or scrap paper and start a nature journal, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a “good” artist, just enjoy the act of creating.
Pause and sit quietly to listen to the world around you. What do your kids hear? What animals do they think live around you? They may surprise you with what they know about our wildlife neighbors. Make up a story together about what may be peeking at them from the bushes and trees.
Make a fairy house out of found objects. Sticks, rocks, leaves; whatever you see on the ground can be transformed into a home for magical creatures. Mackworth Island State Park is home to dozens of fairy houses and is a fun, easy, family-friendly trail worth visiting when it opens again.
And then there are those times when no matter how good your intentions and attitudes, it just doesn’t work out. Our family has had our fair share of leaving halfway through a planned bike ride or hike as well as our fair share of regrets over NOT leaving when it was clearly not working. It’s OK to turn around and leave, it’s OK to not finish what you started. If everyone is miserable at the end of the day it’s not setting the stage for an enthusiastic ‘yes’ the next time a family outing is suggested. Ultimately, your goal should be to want the experience to be positive in order to build a foundation for future plans.
Maine’s Conservation Community and State Natural Resource Agencies have put together helpful recommendations and suggestions for getting out together during the current closures and Stay Safer At Home order.
Contributed by Heather & David Newman of The Local Gear in Cornish