Play Outside With The Kids

If sleeping in a tent is near the bottom of your list of fun things to do, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors whether you’re a seasoned camper or a city slicker. Wander outside your comfort zone on an outdoors adventure with your kids this summer.

Don’t write off outdoor adventures just because you hate camping. Camping is really high-level stuff, even for parents who love being outside. Ease into the great outdoors with these beginner-friendly activities and tips for families.

Go on a day trip

No matter where you live, there’s bound to be something interesting within driving distance. Spend a few days researching destinations you can reach on a single tank of gas. Save money by packing a cooler with meals and avoiding an overnight stay. Look for inexpensive destinations like state parks, caves, farms and nature preserves. Avoid activities that require specialized purchases unless you already have a garage full of adventure gear or you can borrow it. Invite your kids to help with the research and planning. Ask them to help you document the trip through journaling and taking photos.

Learn how to take a family vacation on a shoestring budget >>

Hike or bike

Take advantage of the adventurous parts of camping without staying out overnight. Choose a local hiking path or bike trail and plan on spending the entire day outside. Depending on your kids’ ages, you may need to limit the distance you hike or bike. If it’s your first time, take it easy and try an afternoon or morning so you don’t end up with tired kids and exasperated parents. When you spend the day moving in the summer, it’s especially important to pack nutritious food and plenty of water. Don’t forget sunscreen, bug repellant and basic first aid. Keep your pace nice and easy and focus on enjoying the sights.

Try a guided tour

Many local parks and preserves offer guided tours and hikes. Take advantage of these cheap and oftentimes free opportunities. Sign up for mailing lists offered by local parks or give the offices a call to find out when the next events are scheduled. When you hike with a knowledgeable guide, you’ll discover much more than you would on the trail by yourself. This is a great way to work some education into an outing without totally boring the kids. Make sure the tours are age-appropriate for your kids before you set off. Dress appropriately and pack snacks and water. If you have a stroller, be sure to ask ahead of time if the tour is accessible for strollers.

Camp in a cabin

Want to camp without the whole "sleeping in a flimsy tent" part? Stay overnight in a rustic cabin. Running water and mattresses go a long way toward making camping enjoyable for beginners. Depending on where you camp, cabins may have electricity and bathrooms, or may be within walking distance of a bathroom facility. Most cabins are inexpensive. Try searching for a local KOA to get a sense of nearby options. When you camp in a cabin, plan on grilling outside, hiking around the campground and enjoying unplugged time with your family. Pack boardgames and ditch the electronics.

Don't miss this family camping checklist >>

More fun outside

Finding outdoor activities in the city
Helping kids stay occupied
Campout in your own backyard

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Comments

Comments on "Brave the great outdoors with your family this summer"

Tina June 27, 2012 | 5:39 PM

Love this article, except I live in AZ so playing outdoors is not always an option. I agree with Julie - you have to escape the heat by going up North, which is a great excuse to take a day trip! Camping is always a lot of fun up North too, so take advantage!!

Julie June 27, 2012 | 2:41 PM

Day trip. When you live in Phoenix, get in your car and drive. Go at least 2 hours and get the heck out of the heat; then go out and play.

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