As the weather gets warmer, we all start to think about spending more time outside.
Studies have shown that outdoor time is crucial for children’s development, but it can be a challenge to get your family outside, especially when your children are young. My advice is to start off small. If you have some yard space at your home, buy a few outdoor toys. I have found some very good deals on outdoor toys at yard sales and on Craigslist. Even if you don’t have a lot of extra time in your schedule, you can always find ten minutes to pop outside to play in the sunshine. If you don’t happen to have a yard, try some sidewalk chalk! It doesn’t take up much space and helps kids use their imaginations.
If you are ready to branch out, try going to one of Vermont’s fabulous parks or beaches.
There are so many places to explore in this state. When I don’t have any other plans, I often go to a park near my house. My children love to run around outside and I often bring along a picnic lunch. It’s lovely to eat outdoors and there is never a need to vacuum up crumbs afterwards! Parks and beaches can be challenging when you have children that want to do different activities. I love to invite some friends on my outings so that my kids can split up and go off with other children and there will be enough adults around to keep an eye on everyone.
Just remember to be prepared for any outdoor adventures!
During the warmer months, sunscreen is essential. My kids are usually jumping out of the car and impatient to play whenever we arrive at our destination, so I usually apply the sunscreen at home right before we leave. Depending on where you go, bug spray can also be important. No child will want to spend time outside if they are constantly bitten by bugs. To keep my children happy, I also need to pack water bottles and snacks every time we go off on an adventure.
A hungry, thirsty, grumpy child is not going to appreciate the great outdoors!
Hiking is also a great activity to get your family outdoors. We are so lucky to live in a state that has such an abundance of beautiful trails to explore. My advice is to start off small and expand from there. For small children, I especially love hiking up Mount Philo because it also has a road that cars can drive to the top. If you hike with two or more adults, one of them can always hike back down to the parking lot and rescue exhausted children with the car. This is also a great way to include family members who are physically unable to hike. They can drive up to the top and meet any hikers for a picnic with a gorgeous view. If your children are younger, it’s a good idea to bring along a carrier for them. Even if they don’t need to be in it all the time, they may very well get tired and need a break from walking. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes and be aware that trails can be very muddy, especially early in the spring.
If you’re not sure where to go, why not explore one of Vermont’s State Parks?
They all offer gorgeous outdoor settings and as a mom, I really appreciate that they offer restrooms! Some of the parks even offer food options for those days that you just don’t feel like packing a lunch or dinner. The state parks also offer lots of entertainment options. Besides hiking trails and beaches, some of them also offer boat rentals. There are many programs and special events scheduled throughout the summer months. If you ever have any questions, the park rangers are a great resource to answer them!
If you are anything like my family, you want to get outside more often, but you have a hard time coming up with specific plans. Luckily, my family was saved a lot of hard decision-making when we discovered the Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge. The challenge is run by the state parks in an effort to get families to spend more time outside exploring nature. There is a checklist of kid-friendly activities. Families choose which activities they want to complete and take a picture to earn points for each activity. When you earn enough points, you send in your checklist and earn special tokens that allow you free access to all of the Vermont State Parks for the rest of that year and the next.
I especially love the Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge because it gives me great ideas for fun family activities, such as building our own slip and slide.
When I have recommended the challenge to friends, some of them have been intimidated by such a long list of activities, but I urge you to go ahead and try it! The activities can be done anytime between April 1st and October 15th, so you have plenty of time! Also, I find that with a little planning, you can combine many of the activities in one outing. For example, I could go hiking with my family to the top of Mount Philo (15 points). On the way up, we could climb a boulder (5 points) and identify three native Vermont wildflowers (10 points). When we reach the top, we could sit outside for 30 minutes and write down every sound we hear (10 points) and then read a library book outside (10 points). In one afternoon, we could easily complete five different activities and earn 50 points toward our goal of 250 points. I started doing the Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge when my children were quite young and this will be our fifth year. I can assure you that it is completely doable! My entire family has had a blast exploring different parks and trails over the warm summer months.