Spending time outside is so important for the mental and physical health of both adults and their kiddos. However, getting everyone ready and out the door can be a daunting task, even if it’s just for a quick walk around the block! We get a lot of questions such as “What should I bring?” and “What if my baby gets hungry or has a blowout?”. We’ve been there, and we’re here to assure you that it’s likely easier than you think. Check out the following lists of what to bring for nearby adventures (broken up by the age of your little one(s)) along with tips to get you out the door, enjoying nature as a family.
What to Bring
Regardless of the destination, the question of what you should bring likely rings in your head anytime you head out the door. When you’re heading out for a nearby adventure, consider including the items on these lists in your adventure bag depending on the age of your little one(s):
General – include these items regardless of the age of your children
- Something to Carry Your Gear – you don’t need to get fancy here, anything that is big enough to carry your essentials will work! I prefer either my cross-body bag for short adventures or my small hiking pack for longer treks. You can also use a diaper bag or fanny pack.
- A Stroller or Child Carrier for Little Ones – This one speaks for itself. I will often bring a carrier for my 3.5-year-old just in case he decides it’s more fun to sit in the middle of the road while the rest of us are ready to continue. It’s easy to strap it on my back and tighten it when not in use.
- Water – Even short excursions can build up a sweat. Bring enough water for yourself and any little ones who are old enough to drink it (6 months and up), but may be too young to carry their own.
- Snacks – For myself, I prefer a small bag of almonds or a snack bar if I’m sticking close to home. For your kiddos, see below for some great options broken down by age.
- Sun Protection for Everyone – Even on cloudy days, the radiation from the sun can damage any exposed skin. Stick a hat on everyone and bring along some sunglasses for those that will keep them on. Also, consider sunscreen for kiddos who are old enough to use it (6 months and older).
- A Small First Aid Kit – You likely won’t need a large kit for a nearby adventure. You can buy a small pre-made kit or pack your own into a small, labeled bag or container (for example, an old Altoids mints container works great)
- A Wet Bag (or plastic bag) – This is handy if your kiddo has a blowout or needs a diaper change while you are out. It can double as a trash bag for any snack wrappers or trash you find along the way.
Babies- Newborn to around 1.5 years old
- A Diaper or Two and a Small Pack of Wipes – You never know when your youngest adventurer will have a diaper worthy of an immediate change, so having a few diapers on hand is always a good plan. Also, wipes are great for cleaning up all sorts of unexpected messes (such as spit-up or muddy hands).
- An Extra Onesie or Outfit in Case of a Blowout – Baby outfits roll up nicely to stash in the bottom of your bag for those times when an outfit change can’t wait.
- A Pacifier and/or Small Toy – These generally attach easily to your carrier or stroller and can provide entertainment and comfort for your little one. Both of my boys preferred a pacifier on a chain that doubled as a teether along with a small stuffed toy that made noise.
- A Bottle if Needed – If your little one uses a bottle and you plan to be out for an extended period, pack a serving of formula or breastmilk.
- A Snack for Older Babies – For babies old enough for solids, bring along a snack such as a fruit and veggie pouch (we like these pouches from Beech-Nut) or melties snacks to enjoy on your adventure.
Toddlers – Around 1.5 years old to around age 4
- Water Bottle or Sippy Cup – My kiddos prefer to have their own water on hand during nearby treks. This makes it easy to promote hydration since they have their preferred bottle (and it cuts back on post-snack backwash in your water bottle!).
- A Diaper/Pull-up and a Small Pack of Wipes – As with babies, it’s always smart to be prepared in case your toddler fills their diaper while you’re out and about. Also, wipes are lifesavers when wrangling a messy toddler who discovered a mud puddle or messy snack.
- Snacks! – My toddler would live off of snacks alone if I let him. We bring along some easy-to-handle finger foods that won’t make too much of a mess. Our current favorite are these mini Waffles with Hidden Veggies in Pumpkin, Apple, and Cinnamon from Beech-Nut since they are tasty while also sneaking in some veggies.
- A Change of Clothes – Whether it’s a blowout or a massive mud puddle, toddlers tend to be magnets to all things messy. Rolling up a spare top and bottom in your bag ensures you won’t have to carry a messy child back home or cut your adventure short.
- Adventure Items – Bringing some binoculars or a magnifying glass can increase the wonder and decrease the whining. Just be sure it’s small and you don’t mind carrying it for them if they get tired.
Older kiddos – Ages 4 and up
- Water Bottle – At this age, your kiddo is more likely to be able to carry their own water. We prefer kid-sized stainless steel bottles that fit well into smaller hands and can be clipped to a backpack.
- Snacks! – Again, snacks are essential for a successful family adventure. Older kiddos can generally eat whatever you eat, so throw a pack of nuts or a snack bar (these oaty bars are delicious!) in the bag, and your set!
- Their own Backpack – While not a necessity, my kiddos enjoy having their own backpack for even nearby adventures. We call them “adventure packs” in our house and they are always stocked with a snack, a nature journal and writing utensils, observation tools, etc. They just add their water bottle right before we leave and they’re set!
- A Nature Journal (with colored pencils or crayons) – While they don’t always bring their journals, if we are going to be out for more than a quick walk around the neighborhood they like the have the option to sketch their surroundings. Check out this article for more information on nature journaling with kids.
- Observation Tools – Along with a nature journal, consider bringing a few small tools that kids can observe nature with. This can include a small magnifier, some binoculars, or a handheld microscope.
5 Tips for Getting Out the Door Quickly
- Build it into your Schedule or Routine – With our busy schedules, it can be hard to fit in even nearby adventures. Consider adding it into your week as a family “appointment” for nature therapy. Make it a habit to take an after-school stroll to the playground to discuss their day, or a post-dinner walk around the neighborhood to enjoy some fresh air.
- Have your Bag Packed and Ready by the Door – We prefer to have a specific “adventure pack” for nearby adventures so that it’s always ready to go (we found a great second-hand hiking backpack at a consignment store). Once you have the necessities in your bag (such as extra clothes and snacks), it only takes a few minutes to add the water and any extras you may want. As soon as you get back, replenish as needed and you’re set for the next adventure!
- Have a Designated Spot for Outdoor Gear – You don’t want to have to go searching for sunhats, sweaters, rainboots, play clothes, etc. Having a specific spot for outdoor gear (such as a hall closet or coat rack) makes it easy to grab what you need based on the weather and head out the door.
- Pick Out Your Route Ahead of Time – Whether it’s a neighborhood walk or a nearby trail, pick an appropriate route ahead of time. A simple glance at your phone’s map app or a study of an easy trail on Hike it Baby’s Family Trail Guide or AllTrails can take away the stress of figuring out where to go.
- Looking to Sneak in a Workout? Consider letting older kiddos use their scooters or bikes while younger kiddos ride in a stroller or carrier. This allows you to move faster and cover more ground. Just be sure you set some ground rules ahead of time and choose an area that is safe with low traffic.
Do you have any tips for getting your family out the door to explore nearby nature? Let us know in the comments below!