How to Embrace Outdoor Adventures as a Family (on Earth Day and Beyond)

By Stephanie Thomas

Fresh air is essential.

For breathing, yeah. But also for ultimate mood-boosting.

That’s probably why spending time outside is our go-to family activity.

And while we love to lounge around in the backyard, meet up with friends at the playground, or watch our older son play shortstop while his little brother digs in the dirt, nothing does the trick quite like an open trail and the expectation of adventure.

Our two little dudes have explored creeks, climbed mountains, and fallen asleep to the sounds of nature. We’ve made it to our destination by running and we’ve stopped for snacks around every turn. No matter how we get where we’re going we’re always—always—better for it in the end.

So on this Earth Day, let’s chat about embracing the beauty and benefits of God’s creation—from short hikes to grand adventures.

Start With Short Hikes

Maybe you’re new to the idea of getting out in the woods. That’s awesome! Just start small.

Search for a local spot with a one- or two-mile hike. If you can’t find a trail loop that meets your needs, you can always do an out-and-back. Be sure to turn around before your crew hits max capacity since you’ll need to traipse back to where you started. Check online for a trail map to see if its paved, if you need accommodations for a stroller or wheelchair.

Bring sustenance (and then some). Nothing motivates quite like a snack and a big swig of water. Pack enough for everyone to stop and eat at least twice. Trust me on this one.

Stop along the way. Look for insects. Say, “Let me know if you see a cardinal or a butterfly or . . . a snake!” Ask your kids what they hear and what they smell. With conversations like these, you invite curiosity and encourage the whole group to stay engaged.

Ditch big goals and keep the outing simple. You might share jokes, sing favorite songs or simply enjoy the quiet of the woods as you walk along together.

Build Excitement With Ownership

Once your family gets a taste for adventure, up the ante by giving your kids more responsibility.

Purchase a small backpack for each person to carry. Kids take major pride in hauling their own stuff. Beyond a water bottle and a snack, they might also like to stash binoculars, a notebook, and pencil, walkie-talkies, or any other items that enhance outdoor exploration.

Make first aid kits. Be ready for (almost) anything by preparing a bag or tin with emergency supplies. Let your kids take charge of packing, storing, and replenishing their own kit as needed. Include items like bandaids, antibacterial ointment, antiseptic wipes, gauze, tape, moleskin, q-tips, a tick remover, and a flashlight.

Learn to identify important plants. Start with the ever-present poison ivy. Teach your kids to look out for the three-leafed plant that often—but not always—includes a red tinge around the edge. Challenge one another to be the first to spot the itch-inducing plant on your next hike.

Let your kids lead the way. Take a moment to look at a map and point out any color-coded tree markers as a family. Then encourage one of your children to set the pace. If you know the area well, you might even let them run a ways ahead, provided they check in occasionally.

Take Your Adventures to the Next Level

Something magical happens when you work together to find your family’s rhythm as you challenge yourselves to more strenuous adventures.

This is where outdoor exploration gets super fun.

Branch out. Consider destinations an hour or two away from where you live. You might find unique terrain—glades instead of grass, waterfalls instead of creeks—and the reward of reaching higher and higher peaks.

Put your bodies to the test. Choose a hike that seems just out of reach. Maybe it’s extra long. Maybe it’s extra steep. Perhaps you’ll need to pop your shoes off and wade through water. Or toddle across a fallen tree and run your way down a winding hill.

No matter what challenge you choose, you’re bound to walk away feeling satisfied, accomplished, and (if you’re like us) ready to devour some tacos.

Give overnight adventures a try. Camping isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay! If I’m honest, my husband is much more of the expert in this realm—I’m learning right along with my kids.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: start by selecting a campsite that allows you to park your car nearby. Bring items that make camping comfortable, relaxing, and fun for your family. And if you make ample time for exploration on every trip, your kids will leave begging for more.

We’ll keep spending time with our boys outdoors as the years go by—the size and scope of our adventures growing right along with them.

The thought alone boosts my mood.

Happy Earth Day, friends! What’s your favorite way to enjoy God’s creation? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Instagram.