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15 Tips to Make Time for the Outdoors

How to Make Time for the Outdoors

It’s almost time to start thinking about our resolutions for next year! Almost. If you want to get outside more with your family in the upcoming year, here are some tips to get you started.

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Set an Outdoors Goal

In order to make time to be outside, you and your family need to decide what your goals are.  Having your family onboard and excited makes all the difference when you are making outdoor time part of your family culture.  There are a lot of different types of goals you can set.

Mother and two sons pose on bikes with a canvas flag.
We have this fun flag that we take a picture with while we are having our outdoor adventures. It’s a fun way to track our goals with pictures.

Time

You can set a goal for time spent outside daily or even through the entire year.  The website 1000 Hours Outside is a great place to find inspiration and motivation to get your family outside!  They have printable trackers you can fill out and even have their own app.

Activity

Another type of goal you could set would be activity based.  For example, we want to go on one hike per week.  (Check out 52 Hike Challenge!)  Or, we want to go on a walk after dinner three times a week.  What’s an activity your family enjoys?  Turn it into a goal!

Distance

You could also set a distance-related goal.  For example, we want to bike/hike/walk a certain number of miles as a family. You could also set a goal to work up to a longer hike as a family.

Location

Another fun way to set goals is by location.  We want to visit every state park this year.  Or, we want to find two new parks each month.  We want to fish at three new lakes this summer.  You get the idea!

Consistency Over Quantity 

If you’re new to spending time outside remember that the more you do it, the easier it gets.  You may not be able to spend a lot of time outdoors right away, but be consistent about the time you do spend.  Once you have a consistent foundation you can increase your quantity.

Keep Your Gear Ready To Go

This makes it easier for planned excursions and spontaneous trips alike.  We have a collapsible storage bin in the back of the car that keeps our first aid kit, all weather picnic blanket, and a few other odds and ends in it all the time.

I also keep a bag packed with sunscreen, bugspray, extra medical necessities, snacks, headlamps, etc. I don’t like to leave that in the car because sometimes temperatures can mess with some of those items.  I bring it in when we come home and move it back out when we leave.

Each of my older boys have their own “adventure” bag that they are responsible for packing.  This is a good way to teach them responsibility and help them learn what they should be packing when we go out.  

We also have a designated drop spot for our gear when we get home.  In the winter I keep a large mesh bag in the car.  When we are done with our adventure, all hats, gloves, outer shells, and snow pants go into the bag as each child gets in the car.  Then that bag is taken inside when we get home so everything can dry out.  This cuts down on losing hats and gloves in the car and keeps everything together for the next trip.

Build “Kid Momentum”

If you can get your kids excited to spend time outside, you’ll have extra momentum to keep you getting out there on the hard days.  Bring snacks (maybe even certain snacks they only get during outdoor time) and make it enjoyable for them.  You will probably have at least one child who is unhappy at any given time, but a Bluetooth speaker with happy music can go a long way! 

Always Have a Standby Activity

Make sure you have a standby activity/hike/location.  This will save you on days that get away from you! 

Set the bar really low so it’s almost impossible not to get it done.  Walk around the block, play out on the back patio after dinner, visit your favorite one mile loop at the park.  Gauge what works best for your family and go from there.

Make sure you check out our Outdoor Family Adventure Guide for TONS of ideas to get out in all seasons in a spiral-bound journal format. Also available in an e-guide version!

Small boy in a green jacket walks along a paved path on a fall day.
This is one of our “standby” locations. Even though they’ve been a ton of times, they always something new to do.

Make Outdoor Time the Easy Choice

Planning ahead goes a long way in getting out there.  A little quick research on an app like All Trails can find you four new hikes for the next month.  Or grab a local guidebook and pick a scenic road trip for the upcoming weekend and stop to hike along the way.  Even if your plan is your “easy standby”, it will make it easier to have it on the calendar.

Use Alliteration

Am I the only one who uses alliteration to keep things straight in our family routines?  I have come up with alliterations for our regularly scheduled outdoor time.  Mountain Monday, Two-Mile Tuesday, Wild Wednesday, etc.  Having these simple alliterations really makes it stick in my brain and keeps me from forgetting.

The More the Merrier

Invite others to join you and you’ve got accountability and some extra fun for you and your children.  If you don’t have friends who want to hike with you, check for a local Hike It Baby group or look for other local groups online.  The Outdoor Family Chat on Facebook is a great place to ask around and get advice from others who are like-minded!

Look for Hidden Time 

As you go through your day, ask yourself, “Could I be doing this outside?”  This is my trick for finding little snatches of outdoor time.  Dine outdoors at home or at a restaurant.  Walk or ride your bike to the local park instead of driving.  

Two young boys smile next to a red wagon full of pumpkins in a pumpkin patch.
This year we walked/rode bikes to the pumpkin patch instead of driving. It was a great piece of “hidden time.”

I found extra outdoor time at my son’s swim meets.  When he wasn’t swimming, I went outside and walked around with my other sons instead of staying inside the pool facility.  Every little bit adds up!

Get Outside When You Travel

Planning a trip?  Are there ways you could add more time outside?  You may not need to add more outdoor time if you are planning to visit a national park, but often travel hot spots can have us indoors with tours, museums, restaurants, etc.

Mother and son pose outside on a red rock mountainside.
We try to make sure we get outside when we are visiting with family. Even if it’s a quick trip!

My husband and I went to New York City and spent an entire day in Central Park.  It was incredible!  We also opted to rent bikes and ride around the city instead of taking taxis and subways.

Play In the Dark

We just ended Daylight Savings Time and it is getting dark really early now.  It’s easy to forget that getting outside doesn’t have to stop when it gets dark.  Using headlamps, lanterns, flashlights, glow in the dark or light up toys can make it fun for everyone to get outside before bedtime.

I found one idea that I am excited to try.  Put battery operated tea light candles into plastic Easter egg shells and hide them around your yard.  Can you imagine how much fun this would be in the snow?!

Use the Sun To Your Advantage

With the end of Daylight Savings Time we also have sunlight earlier in the morning. Use that extra hour to your advantage!  Can you get a quick walk in before work or school?  Or maybe just bundle the kids up a little early and let them play in the snow before they head off to school.

During the summer, those late summer nights can be a great help in getting extra outdoor time into your schedule.  We schedule a trip to the local pool one evening a week because it’s only two minutes from our house. 

It’s a quick trip but it feels like a special treat for the kids and it’s less work for me because I don’t have to sunscreen everyone and the pool is less crowded.

Try Something New

Variety is the spice of life!  Use your outdoor goals to find new places to explore.  Ask around in local Facebook groups for new ideas or call a local ranger station and ask for recommendations.

You could also use this time to start a new hobby.  We started geocaching as a way to help get our boys excited about being outside.  They even like to check on caches we’ve already found before!  Learn more about geocaching here.

Don’t Delay for Better Weather

Once you have a goal in mind, commit to seeing it through, even if the weather isn’t great.  I’ve found that the weather is often less than ideal at the times I’ve scheduled to be outside.  This is still hard for me to overcome, but I never regret getting out! 

You can learn a lot from being out of your comfort zone!  Obviously, be wise and cautious in extreme conditions, but windy, cold, and wet weather can still be great times to get outside.  

Make New Traditions

A fun way to add more outdoor time in your schedule is to make new traditions.  We go fishing on the first day of school each year.  We also do a long bike ride for one of my sons birthdays each year.  

Two boys sit next to a lake fishing.
My sons love to go fishing on the first day of school! It’s a silly little tradition my husband and I started in college and it stuck.

Other ideas could include camping for Thanksgiving (cooking included!), skiing on Christmas or New Years, outdoor Easter egg hunts, full moon hikes, or Fourth of July bike rides.  Is there a way for you to celebrate outside?

Outdoor Family Adventure Guide

Our Outdoor Family Adventure Guide is a GREAT way to help get you out the door!

Over 365 different ideas for outdoor family fun, divided by season so you can choose-your-own-adventure depending on the weather in your area, ages of your kids and personal preferences.

Available in two versions:

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