The outdoors checklist
- Clothes appropriate for the weather and activity – full sleeves and track pants for rock climbing, reflective clothing for cycling, swim wear for water sports
- Suitable shoes
- Hats/caps, helmets as needed
- Sunscreen, insect repellent
- Food and water
- Emergency medication (inhalers etc)
- First aid kit
- Flash light
Outdoor activities also teach children responsibility without any lectures from parents. “If you sleep in late and do not set out on time, then you trek in the hot sun, not a pleasant experience. Consequences are very apparent in the wilderness.” Saklani states.
How to get started?
If you are a green horn when it comes to the outdoors, take baby steps. If your child is small, take her to a park or garden and allow her to explore nature.
You could also visit farms nearby. Families with children older than 6 years can join outbound trip organisers on gentle cycling trails or day treks. You could also form a group with fellow parents or with a family that is more ‘outdoors-y’ than yours and venture out. Once you have done some trips in groups, your family may be ready to go out on your own (do look at the Places to See section for some suggestions near your city). Research your destination and plan ahead.
Ravishanker Vasanthaiah, founder of The Wild, an outdoor programmes organisation, has taken families and children on outdoor programmes for nearly two decades. His opinion is that a five-year-old child can go on day treks accompanied by one of the parents. By the age of eight, a child may be ready for an overnight camp. Depending on the enthusiasm and the fitness of the child, the activities can be stepped up and varied in complexity. Children of adventurers are a case apart though – Suma Rao’s daughter Maya went on her first ‘trek’ in a baby carrier at one month, her first rock climbing expedition when she was two, and her first cycling trip when she was five! So tune your outdoor activity to your child’s inclination and capacity.
Finding time to go on such outdoor trips is difficult, as most city dwellers will agree. Get creative to get outdoors. You may not be able to go white water rafting, but you can have fun in the neighbourhood swimming pool or go canoeing in the city lake. If you cannot organise outdoor trips on a regular basis for your family, your child could go with other groups. Children 8 to 12 years old can be sent with groups, provided they know at least one adult (it could be a friend’s mother or father) in the group. Children above 13 can make trips with organisers of outbound programmes. The benefits of such trips (often organised during summer or winter holidays) are that your child gets a chance to make new friends (as the groups are made up of children from different schools and cities) and test her own resilience, without falling back on the presence of a familiar child or adult.