3 Ways to Explore Nature With Children

My husband and I bonded over the love of the outdoors—me a hiking and paddling guide and him a climber and cyclist. It’s no surprise that we’ve made it a priority to teach our children to value time in nature.

Since our children were born, we’ve been sharing family experiences outside—whether that’s walking around an urban pond in our city or escaping to a national forest for the weekend. Here are three of our favorite ways to explore nature with children.

1. Hiking With Kids

My favorite activity! When the children were babies, we hiked with them in a baby carrier—no matter the season. As they grew, we searched for short, local trails they could toddle. I developed some secrets to hiking with toddlers along the way to keep them happy and comfortable in nature.

Now that my kids are older, we’re able to explore longer trails. Hiking allows a child to interact with nature—pick up pine cones, climb rocks, and see beautiful vistas. Most importantly, the child is connecting nature to quality time with the people they love.

2. Biking With Kids

Biking is my husband’s favorite outdoor activity. Teaching kids to ride a bike not only gets them outdoors more but builds independence and confidence.

When they were as young as 18 months, we put our children on a balance bike (a bike with no pedals). They were never forced to ride, but we always offered the activity as an option. “Do you want to go for a bike ride or a nature walk today?” At first, they were painfully slow but built skills over time.

Later, when my son learned to ride a pedal bike, we could explore trails, neighborhood streets, and campgrounds.

Have a young child who doesn’t like to ride? Bike child carriers or tag-along attachments can be great options for children who aren’t ready to ride independently.

3. Paddling With Kids

In my twenties, I somehow landed a job teaching canoe and kayak skills with almost zero experience myself. Fortunately, the employer gave me excellent training, and after a few years of leading flatwater paddling trips for children, I realized that being on the water is a great way to get kids outside.

Since my kids are ages two and four, I’m not ready to have them paddle their own boat. Instead, we take them on short family kayak trips where they sit in our laps. To build confidence, I let my young children “help” me paddle. Along the way, I point out interesting things on shore as well as in the water and sky. By the end of the adventure, they are using their senses to explore and appreciate their surroundings.

4. Plan Ahead & Be Prepared

It can be intimidating to explore nature with children. Exposure to weather, biting insects, and natural hazards are all risks of the outdoors. Follow safety recommendations for your area and always pack the essentials.

Keep you and your family comfortable with appropriate clothing for your outing. For our summer and fall adventures, I love the versatility of my children’s Modesto Jackets for the perfect midlayer. For myself, I prefer the Tech T as a baselayer with the Alpine Trail Jacket on top. My JWP Pant has been a staple for all three of these activities—versatile, comfortable, and stretchy.

Originally from the West Coast, Lindsey Lapointe moved to New England after college and found a permanent home in New Hampshire with her husband, two kids, and her dog. She’s held a lot of titles including marine biologist, wilderness instructor, teacher, writer, and mom. Part of the joy of being a mom is sharing her passion for adventure and the outdoors with her children. She shares more outdoor adventures on her blog, The Freelance Adventurer. Instagram: @freelanceadventurer