Throughout the Fall Family Challenge, we're profiling families across Canada who make time in nature a priority. They'll share their favourite stories, activities and tips for getting the whole family outside.
This week, we're talking with Rajan Sawhney, whose big family lives just outside Calgary. And when we say big, we mean big. Meet grandfather Narinder, grandmother Tavinder, father Gurpreet, mother Rajan, nanny Rufina, and kids Raman (17), Saiva (7), Nishan (3) and Avani (3)!
DSF: How often do you get outside together?
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Because there are nine of us, we don't all get out together frequently. But every family member gets outside every day! Grandma and Grandpa take nature walks. My eldest daughter runs most days (and I sometimes trail behind her at a fast walk). My husband and I enjoy walks by the river in the various city parks. And the younger children spend more hours outside than in during the summer!
DSF: What kinds of activities do you do outside?
We spend a lot of time walking on our acreage. There are lots of interesting things to do, including picking raspberries, counting apples on the apple trees and finding new plants and wildflowers. We spent many days this summer as a family at the Weaselhead Natural Environment Park, where the younger children enjoyed birdwatching while the older ones went for a run along the paths. And because we live so close to Banff, Kananaskis and Canmore, we go to the mountains at least once a month to hike and explore.
DSF: Why is time outside important to you?
First, it is a time to play, to disconnect from everyday stressors and just breathe deeply. Children really exemplify how to live in the moment—their enthusiasm and joy in the outdoor world automatically grounds us adults too.
Second, being outdoors gives everyone an opportunity to exercise in an enjoyable, therapeutic environment. No money in the world can buy a sunshiny day with a gentle breeze and lush spring greenery.
Finally, it's just plain fun. Our time outside includes water fights, tag, soccer and basketball. We've even had impromptu dance competitions in the backyard!
DSF: How do you make time outside a priority? Any tips for other families?
We don't even consider outdoor playtime something that needs to be prioritized; it is such an integral part of our lifestyle! I would advise other families to explore their local parks and protected areas. Many people live in a city their entire lives and fail to check out local parks.
DSF: Any favourite outdoor memories?
Every year, we make an annual family picnic trip to Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country. This year, we packed our picnic and headed out with our family from New Jersey in tow. We were so excited to show them our beautiful picnic spot and talked about it the whole way.
When we got closer to Elbow falls, however, we quickly realized that access was closed due to flooding. We were disappointed, but we were still surrounded by beautiful mountains and the woods. But the road was still open for walking, so all 12 of us got out of our cars and hiked for about two kilometres. Along the way, someone began playing Punjabi dance music on their iPhone and we literally danced and sang all the way back while enjoying the majestic scenery. Our photo here shows my four kids, two nephews, my sister-in-law and me breaking out our best bhangra moves in nature!