Adventure can be exciting, but often times, overwhelming for families new to outdoor experiences. Whether you are itching to run out the door or you are talking yourself out of it (I was guilty of both in the beginning), let’s prepare you for an adventure.

An adventure does not have to be a cross-country excursion that includes foraging for food, risking life and limb, walking forever in the scorching heat…. nope. The most important thing to prepare before your adventure is…

YOUR EXPECTATIONS!

When we set a lot of expectations on ourselves, our children, our family, we can feel a lot of pressure during the ‘adventure’ and then feel disappointed afterwards. Sometimes your adventure turns out nothing like you thought it would be. Yet, it can still be an important building block in the foundation of the family. Here are some unreasonable expectations.

  1. A magical run-in with a friendly baby deer that leaves you with sparkles in your eyes.
  2. Everyone will be happy the entire time.
  3. Nobody will complain before, during or after your outing.
  4. We will be fearless when walking on fallen trees or hopping from stone to stone across the creek.
  5. No one will need snacks or the bathroom because everyone ate and went to the bathroom before you left, just like you asked.
  6. You will arrive on time and stay the entire time you intended to be there.
  7. You will see immediate results from the benefits of your family being outdoors.
  8. My children will pass playing on the playground so they can explore nature with their family.

I think you see where I am going with this. And yet, we still put these expectations on ourselves and others.

Instead of ‘expectations’, let’s talk about ‘encouragement’. Outings become adventures when we encourage our families (including you, parents) to investigate nature. All it takes are some questions.
“What do you think this is?”
“What do you think happened here?”
“What would happen if we did this?”

We can overload our kids with nature facts. Even Naturalists & Environmental Educators, like myself, are guilty of this. But when we step back, ask a question and listen, often times children make their best discoveries on their own. Sometimes my children have very interesting theories on who, why, what, when, and where. I limit my corrections. I just ask another question, “What made you come to that idea?” Over time, you can ‘mic-drop’ some serious, mind-blowing facts. But if we drop fact after fact, all the time, the information is lost and the passion is quickly squashed.

How do you feel when you are constantly corrected? How does it feel when someone doesn’t let you finish your thought? This can really hurt your confidence and self-esteem. When we constantly correct our kids, bombard them with information they don’t know in an attempt to show off our own intelligence, all we really are doing is making them feel less confident in themselves. If we can be patient (minutes, days, months, years), often times they correct themselves, or an opportunity comes up for them to see why that idea may not work.

As we explore, it is important we understand the differences between experimenting/disturbing/collecting and destruction. There is a saying…

Take only pictures. Leave only footprints.

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It is important that we don’t intentionally destroy nature during our adventures. To make sure this doesn’t happen, we have to do 2 things.
1. First, we need to have a conversation with our children about respecting our environment. Our environment takes care of us so it is important we respect its life-sustaining role.
2. Second, we must lead by example. Much of what parents do in front of their children is a model for the child. So when we have an opportunity to DO what’s right, it shows a good example for our children. This means carrying the dog-poop bag with us until we find a proper waste receptacle Maybe bringing an extra bag so if we find litter and it is safe to pick up, we pick it up and properly dispose of it.

That being said, nature is not meant to be treated like a fancy painting hanging on the wall of a snooty museum behind thick glass. It is there to experience! My family regularly flip logs looking for bugs and salamanders, we throw pebbles into the water, we catch frogs and dig for worms, we collect leaves, splash in creeks, walk tall across fallen trees and more.

I encourage you and your family to venture out into nature and have an experience. This could be a walk in the forest or a walk down your street. It could be camping in a park or finding 10 minutes playing in the backyard garden beds.

Before you head out the door, be sure to… [CLICK HERE]