As the children have grown, I have too. I've learned their personalities and temperaments. What works for one child doesn't necessarily work for the other. Our current outdoor pursuits have evolved to accommodate all of us. I would never say doing anything with kids is without challenges, but it is different as they get older. It's different and many times easier to spend quality time outdoors as a family.
3 ways outdoor adventures are easier as the kids get older
Less Baby Gear to Bring
You can leave all the baby gear at home. Gone are the slings, baby carriers, and strollers. You can never completely get away without carrying any gear (one must always be prepared), but at least you can drop all the extras that make life easier with a baby or toddler. No more diaper bag essentials, special baby food, or nap playpens for the little ones.
Gradually, as children begin to walk you can give them more ground time exploring on foot with you. Initially, this will slow you down since you cannot go that fast or far with a walking toddler, but that too will change as they grow. When kids are mobile and able to walk longer distances it is much easier to attempt technical trails, and you can walk longer, exerting less energy perhaps without carrying another human being.
Once kids reach a certain age you can disperse your pack weight. As soon as you and they feel comfortable you can begin having each child carry their own gear. Get the kids a backpack and have them haul their own water to start. Later, you can have them tote their own food and 10 essentials and work up from there.
Parents and Kids Learn and Adapt to the Routines
After many family outings customs and habits are formed and expectations set. Kids take away something from each life experience and become knowledgeable rather quickly as young adventurers. Children are flexible and adaptable and learn age-appropriate rules, in time. I remember my young toddler was a nightmare once when we took her camping. We had the hardest time keeping her in camp without holding her, carrying her, or containing her somehow. Years later when the kids understood the rules and knew they weren't to wander out of camp without asking I thought to myself how easy camping had just become. In addition, teaching outdoor skills to children can mean quicker camp setup or breakdown. Let them put up the tent or gather the firewood.
Children also learn whether they like or dislike certain activities. If we can set the tone early on that an outdoor lifestyle is fun, they too, usually find it worthy of their time and hopefully enjoy themselves.
Happy kids = happy parents = easier outings.
The adults, too, know what to expect (mostly) you know your child best. You know his or her temperament. You know how they react to hiking. You know what trail games they love, what snacks they'll eat and the best way to encourage them along the way (think candy). You know their favorite hike and don't mind doing it repeatedly if it means you can have some happy family time together. The family that spends time together grows together.
Along with growth comes an occasional impromptu adventure. Children have outgrown their daily naps and have a full-days-worth of energy to burn off. You can hit the trails more often and for longer distances. I've found it to be easier to take more unplanned adventures now that the kids are elementary age-level. Keep the gear easily accessible and be ready for an outing on a moment's notice.
If you are a family with infants and toddlers and have a hard time spending consistent time outdoors, stay hopeful. The kids will grow. You and the children will learn what works and what doesn't. It does take effort to go on family outdoor adventures and it can be difficult at times, but someday soon, quicker than you think, it will get easy. One day you'll have less gear to carry, the kids will happily hike with you on a spontaneous adventure, and all will be well in the world.
Editor's Note: Traci Lehman is a regular contributor to the Sierra Social Hub as part of #TeamSierra. Learn more from Traci on her site: WalkSimply