Routines are important, but recently our family routines have been steadily becoming more screen focused and less adventurous.
My wife and I realised we were getting lazy and leaving the kids to literally their own devices while we slept in on the weekend. So to try and break the rut we discussed as a family what we wanted to get out of our weekends.
Our children, unsurprisingly, were just fine with the usual status quo of watching TV and playing computer games and it took some time to persuade them that every Sunday, we should get up, get dressed, eat breakfast in the car and get out for a walk in the forest.
This went well the first Sunday when things were all novel.
As the kids ran around we breathed in the fresh air and admired how brilliant we were as parents. Look at our amazing three kids out poking mushrooms and running around with sticks I thought.
Mentally I began to make plans for a new shelf on which I could place all my future ‘best father’ awards. We smugly and happily greeted our fellow forest walkers with the glee of a perfect family trying something new and thinking it would be like this every week.
The second weekend was a bit more work.
We got to the forest, we walked, we oohed and ahhed at the amazing mushrooms, admired the sounds of the birds and soaked in the serenity but the shine seemed to wear off with every step we took.
The new toy wasn’t as good as it used to be.
After a long walk it was a long trek back to the car with a sleepy child on my back and the others dragging their feet in boredom. It seems we had the right activity, just making the kids walk more than a few kilometres wasn’t going down well.
For our third trip, we mixed it up a bit and tried a new spot and let the kids take the lead. If they wanted to run off and get the distance in, we would follow. If they wanted to stop and poke around a bush for half an hour, we followed and when they were close to expiring we went back to the car. Lowering our expectations around what a ‘walk in the forest’ was helped us all have a great time as a family.
Then after some bad weather and a few family colds we suddenly hadn’t been outside in a few weeks to our usual spots and the kids started pestering us to get out. Suddenly they were the ones driving the activity.
“When are we going for a walk in the forest?” they asked.
Well, needless to say we returned to the forest the next weekend and discovered all sorts of amazing things: cubby houses made of fallen branches, a geocache tub and enough animal bones that I started to look over my shoulder now and then. Ah, the joys of nature.
It isn’t easy to break out of a rut and not everything we have tried has worked, but getting up on a Sunday is a great way to break up the weekend and is something we are starting to cherish as a family. The only costs involved are transport and snacks, a small price to pay for the kids to enjoy some unstructured play in the beauty of nature.
We started with a google search of the surrounding area and made a list of playgrounds and national parks within a 45 minute drive. We then had a look at some of those on google maps to see if there were any off the beaten track paths that might be a bit different and checked them out too.
We don’t set the alarm on a Sunday, we get up when we feel like it, get dressed then straight out the door into the car. We often have breakfast on the run and it just adds to the adventure. Everyone in the family enjoys the new status quo, even our dog who enjoys the break from running around the same yard all day, a lot like the kids really.
Some ideas to get you started, check out:
Geographic areas of interest
Seasonal activities like flower blooms