What's your favorite affordable outdoor activity to do with your kids?
My favourite outdoor activity I love to get involved in with my kids is a Beach or campsite Scavenger Hunt. It's totally free and can help very young children develop their understanding of the world around them.
Scavenger hunts are ideally suited to children under 9 years old, but if it’s made slightly more competitive and challenging then older children can be persuaded to take part too. It’s also an ideal activity to help break the ice for groups of children who have come together at a campsite. You can adapt the items below to include whatever’s available in the local area, so it doesn’t have to happen at the beach. The best bit is these hunts are free, get everyone active, out into the fresh air and learning about their surroundings.
First give each scavenger a beach bucket or similar and ask them to collect:
Some flat pebbles for skimming (or skipping). Later show them how to skim;
A flint and/or chalk stone and tell them how they can be used;
Animal tracks in the sand. Ask what animal made them and make a copy on paper;
Different types of seaweed;
A small piece of drift wood;
Some pirate treasure (discreetly drop small change for them to find, which they can use later to buy a treat);
Something plastic or man-made. Tell them why it’s rubbish, doesn’t belong on the beach and bin it together;
Something that has travelled a long way to be found on the beach. Explore where it might have come from.
The same game can be adapted slightly to become a treasure hunt in the campsite or wherever you’re staying. The older children can be put in charge of hiding different things nearby, while the younger ones look for them. If you use small change the children can pretend to be pirates finding lost treasure, then spend it later on a treat.
Another couple of great activities, which are also free, are target practice and drawing in the sand or on stones with chalk.
It’s amazing how much fun you can have with a few empty tins or plastic cups lined up and small stones to knock them down. If you’re feeling like a challenge you can even make a bow and arrow to knock them down instead. Keeping score makes the game even more competitive and fun for everyone… including the adults.
Also, if you are at the beach try drawing pictures in the sand with some driftwood. If you are in the city draw pictures on the pavements or walls with chalk (making sure you have permission from the owners of course).
Drawing anything on such a large-scale inspires great creativity and is a fantastic thing for others to see at the end of the day as they walk by.
Then the rain or waves wash the art away as if it was never there, giving you a blank canvas for the next time you visit.
What tips do you have for spending time outdoors when its cold?
Winter camping can bring an experience that few understand. This has enormous benefits as it means the trails are less crowded, campsites abandoned and roads deserted, leaving you to enjoy a rare moment of peace and calm in surroundings transformed by the winter season.
There’s no doubt winter camping can be difficult, tough and with a considerable amount of discomfort, but that doesn’t take away the magical essence of getting outside when almost everyone else is getting inside. It also adds volume to the exhilarating experience of overcoming and surviving inhospitable conditions.
So whether its something you know you’d enjoy, or if you’d simply relish the opportunity of doing it just the once, here’s a load of tips to start your trip safely. The bonus is that these tips could also prove to be a lifesaver if you are simply driving to the other end of the country to meet the in-laws or are going cross-country to the shops in the winter. As with most things, you never quite know when you might need an emergency survival pack so it’s always a good idea to keep it tucked in the boot of the car or camper van for when things get a bit tougher than usual. So my advice would be to:
Plan, Plan and Plan Again
Research the area you intend to visit and the weather and conditions you will be exposed to. This will have a massive influence on what you include in your winter camping pack. Also, make an itinerary which includes where you intend to go and when you’ll be back, and pass it on to a number of reliable people who can monitor if you’ve got to your destination at the right time or if you’ll need some help.
Always Take More Than You Think You’ll Need
Take more clothes, more food, more fuel, more bedding, etc. Taking more that you need will never do any harm, but taking less than you need certainly will.
It’s all about layers. Choose a number of thin layers, then bulk them up with a warm, windproof and waterproof layer. Also, never forget your head, hands, neck and feet. Make sure every layer you have is a mix of warm, waterproof and windproof as necessary.
These have to be warm, waterproof, and most of all have a good grip. If they wont be good in the snow and ice make sure you buy some crampons.
I think the following should be a part of everyone’s winter essentials list and stored in a waterproof bag:
Emergency food and water
Rock salt or grit
Shovel and snow chains
Extra clothes and shoes (see above)
Vehicle tool kit and extra fuel
Blankets and pillows to overnight in a vehicle
Waterproof matches or lighter
Phone, Phone charger and emergency numbers
Eco-power generator like the Biolite Stove or PowerPot
Maps of the area you are visiting
And most importantly... A sense of humour!
What's a great vacation destination for families that want to spend time outside?
There are some fabulous destinations for families that want to spend time outside, and these are my top 12 destinations to go camping.
Top 12 Places
1. Anywhere in New Zealand would be a bonus. It’s an amazingly beautiful place that looks like a mirror image of the UK in many locations. However, I would particularly like to go to the South Island.
2. Many tents became popular through their use by the army and nomads in the desert, such as safari tents and bell tents. So I'd love to give them a try in this scorched and little known land, and the deserts of Peru would be a great start.
3. Camping in the Maldives would allow me to become a slightly more glamorous Robinson Crusoe and I'd love to give it a go!
4. I don’t need to say much about the Seychelles to persuade you of this one… right?
5. Southern Iceland has some dramatic landscapes and amazing scenery.
6. Having lived there I know how amazing the food, people, and places are in Greece. Kefalonia is one such place I would love to visit and to take a boat from island to island to sample some island delights on the open sea.
7. Canada… yeah, you know it!
8. A dream of mine is to visit Hawaii and sample every element of it, including the surfing… hopefully minus the sharks!
9. There are so many amazing places to visit in the UK but I am dreaming about cool camping on the Isle of Skye.
10. National Parks and Forests all over the world, such as in Australia, hold an abundance of glorious places to camp.
11. Totally unexplored by me is China. A huge country with some of the worlds most spectacular sights I would love to visit.
12. A dream of mine would be to have an open canoe and to drift down one of the many rivers in France wild camping and fishing wherever we fancy. Yep, secretly I would love to be Ray Mears!
So this is my top 12 destinations to spend time outside with the family. What are your?