Health & Well-being

The wonder of adventure

Family adventures

Truth be told, I’m not that adventurous. Given some spare time, I’m happy to sit back, sip tea and hang out with my family in the comfort of home. Not so my colleague Kath. With a day off on the horizon, her family are pulling out maps and tramping packs and planning the most exciting way to get out and challenge themselves. Rock climbing, caving, tramping, camping, exploring – they’re into it!

Kath’s post-holiday stories inspire me. Other people’s adventures are handy like that. I’ll let Kath share some reflections in a minute, but first – here are some thoughts on the value of adventures for our kids, and some simple ways to venture further than the couch when you next have some family time to spare.

Up for the challenge

Adventures of all shapes and sizes offer loads of benefits. Fresh air and fitness, absolutely, but other things too. Doing something adventurous can promote self-confidence in our kids as they tackle challenges and overcome fears. Trying something new pushes us out of our comfort zones – kids and grown-ups alike. I’ve seen a wonderful sense of achievement and satisfaction in our kids when we’ve pushed ourselves off the couch, got outdoors and really savoured the environment we’re so blessed to have on our doorstep.

Not only are you creating life-long memories when you get out and try something new together, but you’re also developing curiosity and building problem-solving skills.

Not only are you creating life-long memories when you get out and try something new together, but you’re also developing curiosity and building problem-solving skills. An adventure we went on last school holidays had us figuring out the best place to cross a stream without getting too wet, what to do for a baby penguin we found washed up on the beach and whether it was best to climb around some rocks to the next bay or head on up over the hill.

Adventures don’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Simply putting on coats and boots and heading out for a walk in stormy weather can be super exciting for kids. Meeting another family and exploring a local bush track or public park; walking along a section of coastline; climbing a mountain; going geocaching – these are just a few examples of adventurous activities that are relatively accessible, as well as cheap or free.

When school holidays roll around, especially the wintery ones when movie marathons are a very tempting entertainment option, I aim to include a couple of adventurous activities in the schedule. Intentionality and planning definitely help. I’ll have a look at the calendar and ask the kids what outdoor activities they’d like to do and who with. Mates are great for motivation.

And here’s another tip, a thermos for tea! Whatever your level of adventure, a rucksack of refreshments can certainly sweeten the mood. So now you’ve got the sense that adventure for my family generally extends to a picnic and a bush or beach walk, I’ll hand over to Kath who tackles tramping huts and trekking through snow on a regular basis...

Out there doing it

As a family, we LOVE adventures. Every holiday or long weekend we plan some sort of getaway – we just have to get out of town and into nature. This usually always means sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire, and doing a lot of physical activity. It also means lots of sandflies and mosquito bites.

Sometimes it’s just us heading out, and sometimes we join forces with another family. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. As our kids get older (especially as they head into the teenage years), it’s sometimes a bit harder to motivate them to get excited about adventures if it’s just our family. When we add another group of kids to the mix, however, they’re happier to come. (In saying that, even if our kids have been a bit reluctant at first, they always come around and enjoy themselves on our holidays regardless of how many of us there are on the trip.)

When it’s just our family, I like that we are fully present with each other in every moment, and we’re making memories together. When we’re with friends, we tend to have experiences in smaller groups and I don’t feel so connected to everyone at every moment.

What remains is the happy memories of playing cards in a tramping hut, jumping off a cool rock into the river, and a sense of closeness that comes from walking and talking together for six hours as we follow a track to our destination.

Sometimes the adventure is challenging – the food gets burned on the cooker, we get blisters and tired legs, we have to walk uphill … in the rain … with heavy packs on our backs. But these challenges are very quickly forgotten on our arrival back to normal life. What remains is the happy memories of playing cards in a tramping hut, jumping off a cool rock into the river, and a sense of closeness that comes from walking and talking together for six hours as we follow a track to our destination.

I see a sense of identity develop in my kids as we go on these adventures, as individuals and also as a family. We are an adventurous family – this is who we are. We are able to walk a long way, to climb tough rock-climbing routes and do things that scare us. We are capable and tough and brave.

Authors

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam is a passionate communicator, especially on topics relating to families. After 20 years in Auckland working mainly in publishing, Ellie now lives in Northland, with her husband and their three daughters, where she works from home as content editor for Parenting Place. Ellie writes with hope and humour, inspired by the goal of encouraging parents everywhere in the vital work they are doing raising our precious tamariki.


Katherine Tarr

Katherine Tarr

Katherine is a Child and Family Psychologist with experience working in both the early intervention and education settings. She is part of our Programme Development team where she is responsible for researching and developing training programmes that will equip facilitators to deliver our courses to a high standard. Prior to training as a psychologist, Katherine was a high school teacher and an outdoor instructor. She has four primary school aged children and in their spare time the family enjoys having adventures in the outdoors.


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