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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.

Engagement equals enjoyment

My natural state when exploring is to be silent. In silence my often-cluttered mind unravels freely at last. Which as it turns out is a giant problem when trying to explore with three kids all asking you every question possible the entire time.

It’s a longstanding goal of mine to instill this silent freedom in my children, but also to nurture their inquisitive minds and foster connection to the natural world. On most days, I am their well-prepared trail guide full of (hopefully) interesting facts, asking (hopefully) engaging questions, and challenging them to recall bits we’ve learned previously. It is through available parenting that their love for being in nature grows each day.

Every so often, when they wander ahead, they will glance back and agree that mama is happy because she is quiet. Small victories I want to fondly remember.

Show and try not to tell

Children see better than they hear in my opinion. If the goal is to raise a family who thrives outdoors, it only makes sense to be my best out there. A child’s ears can hear the frustration or dissatisfaction in your voice from a mile away and prompt the “I’m done” fit just steps into your adventure. I’ve learned to muster the same excitement for the extra flat paved loop downtown my kids love as the daring waterfall trail I prefer. If you’re not into it, neither are they.

To all the other adventure mamas out there—you can do it. Try and fail and try again. Get to know and love the quirky team you call a family and reach each goal, large or small together.

How do you keep your #WildChild excited and engaged as you explore #outdoorsanywhere? Share your favorite activities with fellow trail moms and dads in the comments, and be sure to download the Military Wild Child Spotify playlist for your next adventure!



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