After years of observing my three kids and their friends in the wild — hiking, skiing, playing at the beach, or simply racing around the backyard screaming like hooligans —I've gained huge admiration for their innocent yet brilliant skills at adventuring in the outdoors. They have this innate wisdom about them, like little gurus, that all boils down to some simple truths.
What is it that these kiddos know about outdoor adventuring that makes them worth studying closely and copying their many ways?
1 — Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Giant rip in your brand new jacket that you got at the mega-sale last month and boxed out a grandma for? We might huff and puff and pout send an angry Facebook message out about the careless dude who stuck his trekking pole through our sleeve yesterday.
But a kid, a kid will stick her finger through that rip, that glorious, new hole in her sleeve. Wiggle it around for a little. Declare it some sort of worm. Ask mom for Duct Tape. Take a giant slab o' Duct Tape and wind it around and around the hole and the entire arm. (Score one for brilliant Duct Tape usage!) And, presto! Hole in sleeve "fixed" - "water-proofed" again - and on to the next adventure. No sweat.
2 — Get Dirty
So we are all definitely guilty of squirting on the hand sanitizer sometimes as if it were free money and, yes, of course there are germs out there in the outdoors that nobody wants to share or have shared. However, there's something to be said for just getting dirty. And who better than a kid to teach us this important lesson #2.
A real favorite is when one of my kids comes home from the day and I can see by what has stuck to his face and hair the story of his awesome adventures: The day started with a dusty hike out to the beach. Ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches then roasted some marshmallows and made S'mores in the fire-pit. Wrestled on the sand and then climbed up way into the headlands. Slid back down on our butts and had a seaweed fight and discovered dead seagull bits. On the way home, the orange electrolyte juice exploded everywhere and my buddy's slobbery Labrador licked my cheek.
Yuk but YES! Would he remember a sanitized day tiptoeing around in clean sneakers and starched pants? Nope. Will he remember the blast he had with his buddies covered in S'mores and sand in the outdoors? Yep. Same goes for us.
3 — Hold Hands
This is a favorite because it's all about teamwork and the buddy system. Kids are taught from an early age to hold hands when crossing the street or when heading into a less familiar situation that might induce fear or stress. It's an action of comfort and reliance on each other as a team to be interdependent and they do it naturally in all sorts of settings.
And the same goes for us adults as we navigate challenging outdoor elements like roaring stream crossings, failed equipment, or possible Bigfoot sightings while camping in the wilderness soooo many miles from civilization.
It's nice to have someone there to hold our hand mentally and remind us that Bigfoot is simply an old wives tale and besides, he doesn't like backpackers and prefers to stalk delicious day hikers. It's nice to have someone there to hold our hand physically for, say, a boost through the river when the trail's bridge has washed out and you're wobbling around on slick rocks. And it's nice to have someone there to work together with to create a supportive team atmosphere. You have each other's backs in all aspects. End of story!
4 — Bonks & Bruises Are Awesome
Growing up, a mantra in our family for skiing was always: If you don't have a good story about a yard sale - a massive ski crash where your gear goes flying off of you in all directions - you're not skiing hard enough or trying new things on the slopes. In other words, yes bonks and bruises and falling and crashing can stink, but it's also part of growing up and testing your limits and skills.
Kids with scrapes on their knees and banged up shins and mosquito bites covering them and a scar on their arm from the rock they were climbing means they're out there in the outdoors, figuring stuff out about themselves and how they fit into this massive ecosystem.
It's ok to be cautious, but taking smart risks is a part of adventuring and we should be proud of the stories of our "failures" and "boo-boos" — turning back before the summit in a thunderstorm, crashing on our mountain bike during a crazy single-track section, flipping over our skis in a white-out. And the best part is that we'll get some great stories and, yup, injuries with everlasting scars — badges of honor — along the way.
5 — Enjoy the Micro Moments Along the Journey
Watch your kids. Your neighbors' kids. Your nieces and nephews. Are they charting future, epic, bucket list, peak-bagging moments to check off their long adventure list? Or are they just getting outside and doing it? Playing, climbing, investigating, grabbing the fuzzy caterpillar along the trail, getting wet, stomping in horse-poop, climbing the tree and then falling out of it into the poison-ivy covered slope.
It's these micro-outdoor moments that kids so easily celebrate and find joy in that remind us that outdoor adventuring, like life, should be a journey not a destination — thank you Ralph Waldo Emerson — and we should find fun in all moments of the experience, not just in the yoga-pose selfie celebration at the summit.
Summits rock — but so does everything else along the way. Boom.
So there we have it. Simple wisdom from the little ones in our lives. Check it out, observe their innately brilliant ways of navigating the outdoors, and see what you think.
Any more things your kids teach you? Let us know!
5 Things Kids Can Teach Us About Outdoor Adventuring
By Annie Yearout
July 22, 2015
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