Throughout the Fall Family Challenge, we'll profile 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.
First up we have the Collins Family of Cedar, B.C., a rural community on Vancouver Island. Jill Collins told us all about how she, her husband Joel and their children Ben (8) and Liv (6) make the most of the great outdoors.
DSF: How often do you get outside together?
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We make it a priority to adventure together outside nearly every other weekend. This could involve day trips, afternoon hikes or multi-day adventures close to home or hours away. We have been doing this for over six years, so it has become part of our regular lifestyle.
DSF: What kinds of activities do you do outside?
We are fortunate to live on Vancouver Island, where we can do just about any activity all year round. And we do! We go mountain biking, trail running, backpacking, rock climbing, swimming in the river, kayaking and canoeing in the summer. We change it up in the winter with snowshoeing, downhill skiing, surfing, hiking and caving.
Not all of our time outside is power-packed with adventure, though. We have great fun geocaching in local parks, catching frogs and mud puppies in nearby ponds and practising our fishing skills.
DSF: Why is time outside important to you?
Outdoor adventure is our family time, when we are completely in tune with each other and the kids have my and Joel's undivided attention. And it allows us to do what we love.
It is important for us as parents to teach Ben and Liv the benefits of living an active and healthy lifestyle. As we model this behaviour, they learn not only about fitness, but also about lifecycles, migration, self-awareness, history, teamwork, science, confidence, Fibonacci numbers, art, calmness, creativity and personal achievements. Nature is the greatest classroom you and your child will ever experience.
DSF: How do you make time outside a priority? Any tips for other families?
First of all, start small—find a local trail and start going for walks. If you have babies, try ditching the stroller and use a pack; I think that gives the child a more intimate experience with nature (and their parent).
Once kids can walk independently, pay attention to how far they can walk and push it a bit farther each time. Follow their lead—if they need a break, take it. Next time they need a break, say, "Okay, at the next big tree." Stop to admire the bugs, shiny rocks and pretty sticks they point out. And get everyone involved: let the kids help pack and pick the destination or activity.
Sitting at home thinking about the work required to get ready for a hike can seem painful, but the rewards are worth it.
DSF: Any favourite outdoor traditions?
Because we adventure roughly every second weekend, I have come up with family mission statements for our adventures each year. One year it was "Finding Life in Adventure." We had to find, photograph and identify five living things on each adventure, and never the same living thing twice. Another year was "The Art of Adventure." We listened to nature's music, made crafts from rocks, sticks and shells, took photos and drew endless pictures in the sand. These mission statements have allowed us to explore nature in different ways and have fuelled our passion for getting outside.