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Unplug and reconnect outdoors this summer

Exhausted after another hectic year? Maybe it’s time to reconnect as a family by disconnecting from the outside world and heading into the great outdoors. We’ve rounded up some ideas and tools to get your family out hiking. By Sonia Speedy

Firstly – keep it simple

If the trip is complicated and involves too much gear, your enthusiasm is likely to wane. Make it doable. Pick somewhere close to home and not too far to walk for your first trip. Then you can road test your planning and packing, and the kids’ abilities before you’re in the back of beyond.

Practice with some day walks before you head out overnight. This will help you refine what you need to bring and get the kids in the swing of it – not to mention yourself. Check out the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council’s Day Walking information and the Plan My Walk app to find some suitable shorter walks near you.

Use tools to help

The Mountain Safety Council’s Plan My Walk app contains loads of walk options to explore in your region and is a useful guide for planning your trip. It can tell you the weather for your selected dates and location, any alerts you need to know about, and what gear you need to take. It also provides a place to do the planning for the trip – you can attach documents and input the details of your emergency contact. It also allows you to share your trip plan with your group and emergency contact.

Michelle Morpeth of Outdoorsy NZ and The Outdoorsy Mama is an advocate for fitting more of the outdoors in as parents. She suggests not having too rigid an agenda (e.g., we must make it to a certain feature within an hour) to help make it fun. Make it about the children and what they are interested in as much as possible.

A top tip from Michelle is to listen to native bird calls online before you go, so the kids have a chance to learn the songs of different species ahead of time and can listen out for them on the trip.

Invite another family along

It’s miraculous how much further and faster kids will walk when there are other kids with them. Get talking to other families at the school gate or on the side of the sports field and find out who’s keen. It’s also nice to have some more adults on board to help share the load.

Do a test pack

One of the most daunting parts of planning a family adventure – particularly overnight –  is making sure you have everything. But not too much – those extra comforts won’t be such a great idea when you’ve been walking for a few hours.

Do a test pack a few nights before you go to see what you’re missing. It also helps to know you can actually get everything in your packs – especially when you can’t rely on the small people to carry much.

Michelle suggests adding in a small plant/tree/bird guidebook for identifying what’s around you with the kids while you’re walking. Throw in a magnifying glass so the kids can examine life around the campsite or hut too, she says.

Distraction, distraction, distraction

Once you’re out there, distraction can be your best friend. Minimise the whinging by giving each child their own snack pack that they can eat through as they like.  Michelle recommends having a few games up your sleeve to play while walking too. Something like alphabet games, I Spy, or Guess the Animal.

Michelle also suggests taking a notebook and pencils or crayons for the kids to create a nature journal. Even small children can do leaf rubbings.

Another top tip from Michelle is letting the kids take turns being ‘trip photographer’, taking pictures of things that interest them. You can then turn this into an album later to remember the trip by. After all, you’re all out there to make memories. Enjoy!

Check out the latest book Mia & Leo Go WILD! which introduces Kiwi kids to tramping and safety in the outdoors. Written by Gillian Candler and illustrated by Gavin Mouldey.

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