Wild Child: How to Maximize Outdoor Adventure

By a mama of three wildlings.

Stepping foot out into the unknown with three children used to be a gamble. There were days where a simple loop around a lake looked more like sacrificing myself to a rabid pack of beasts attacking at my slightest misstep. The hike back to the car with said howling beasts tucked under each arm was enough to make me both sweaty and full of defeat. Despite plenty of failed attempts, I’ve managed to make our time outside into a lifestyle we’ve all come to love.

Fail to succeed—your new mindset

There are still days when my motley crew go full wildling on me out of the blue, but far less than when we began this lifestyle journey. Through plenty of failures I’ve come to learn and accept the unique limitations each of my children possess and adjust our trips to accommodate.

I know my middle requires an ungodly number of snacks while walking to make it through any adventure of any length. I know my eldest’s demands for the jacket I’m confident he doesn’t need makes him feel prepared, despite it being summer. I know that if the baby starts the trek out of the hiking backpack, there’s no way he’s getting in, but if he starts strapped to my back with a toy car in hand, we’re solid for at least an hour.

What are you actually hiking for?

Adult hiking is exactly what you think it is. There’s a trail which you follow to some vista or endpoint and then a prideful trek back full of accomplishment. And then there’s hiking with kids. Our children have lovingly opened our eyes to many other forms, all of which are wonderful.

We often hike to seek. To identify local plants and wildlife these adventures are much slower, much more intentional, and require an openness to stopping often.

On days we hike to accomplish, we make a point of agreeing upon the goal as a group. Recently, the goal was for my two-year-old to walk the entire 0.3-mile path without being carried. It was as slow as you would imagine but rewarding in the end. Other days we’ve pushed up to four miles round trip with bucketloads of encouragement and some serious high fives at the peak.

The key to a successful hike is to first determine what you’re actually hiking for. What is the goal of the day? What signs will you look for to deem the day a success? Knowing these things ahead of time avoids frustrating situations which are often just characteristics of a different kind of hike than you’d planned for.