Photo: The Alterkirk family raises its outside voices

The nature-loving Altenkirk family of Truro, N.S.

Throughout the Fall Family Challenge, we're profiling families across Canada that make time in nature a priority.

It's Week 3, and we're headed to Nova Scotia to chat with Karla Winham. She and her husband, Gary Altenkirk, along with their children Peter and Tanner (10) and Katrina (8) live in Truro, a small town about an hour from Halifax.

Sign up for our newsletter

DSF: How often do you get outside together?

We try to do something outside together about once a week. The kids also play outside at least a little bit most days, and Gary and I each go for a run or bike about three times a week.

DSF: What kinds of activities do you do outside?

We love to go for Sunday afternoon hikes. In the summer we also camp, ride bikes, play at the beach, swim at the outdoor pool and fly kites. In the winter we sled, ski and make snowmen. Backyard games like tetherball and washer toss are a hit, as are water battles and Nerf-gun fights.

I enjoy trail running, and Gary and the kids always come to cheer me on at races. Recently, the kids have become interested in racing too, and they all just completed their first kids' triathlon.

Gardening is also lots of fun. Yesterday the kids picked all the green beans for supper without any help. Today they helped me harvest all the potatoes, onions and carrots.

DSF: Why is time outside important to you?

There are so many fun things to do outside! We like the fresh air and we especially love to share the interesting things we see on a hike, like weird-coloured mushrooms and crazy clouds. The kids love to make noise, so they probably love the fact that we aren't always telling them to be quiet when we are outside!

DSF: How do you make time outside a priority? Any tips for other families?

We reserve Sunday afternoons for family time and try to spend it outside. It can be a real challenge to put work and chores aside for a few hours, so we have to guard this time by saying no to other things, including the kids' activities and our own sports opportunities. Kicking the kids outside to play outside after school isn't that hard, but making it a family event is more of a challenge when life gets busy. 

My advice is to just get started. Pick a time that works for everyone, choose an activity that everyone will like and tell the kids the plan—they help to keep us grown-ups accountable! And if life is too busy and you miss a week, don't give up—just try again the next week. Also, make sure your plan is achievable for everyone. Sometimes we have chosen hikes that are too long, and the youngest was not happy.

One more thing: parents can't expect their kids to love going outside if they never do it themselves. Find something you like to do outside and just do it.

DSF: Any favourite outdoor traditions?

Our annual campout at Kejimkujik National Park with church friends is one of our favourite summer traditions. In fact, we usually plan our summer holidays around it. Camping with a group is so much fun because there is always someone to play with and something to do.

September 30, 2013

Read more

Post a comment

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »