We're so lucky in the United Kingdom to have such a wealth of beautiful outdoor space. There are so many places to explore! A new destination I discovered earlier this year was the Isle of Man, which has been dubbed 'the British Isles in miniature' thanks to its vast array of natural formations in a small space; from sandy beaches and rugged coastlines to dense green glens and tumbling streams, exposed mountain tops to wild moorland. It is also host to some fascinating wildlife, even wallabies.
Getting out into the great outdoors with your children is a fantastic way to spark their imagination. You can keep them preoccupied for hours watching wildlife and exploring woodland. In my opinion, being in nature is the key to happiness.
This October half term is the perfect time to get out and explore - I often think our countryside is at its most beautiful in the Autumn when the leaves are turning orange. You can collect conkers and fallen leaves from the ground. Our small animals will be starting to think about winter, so keep your eyes peeled for squirrels gathering nuts, and hedgehogs looking for a place to hibernate. We also get some fascinating birds migrating to the UK, particularly by the coast. Look out for geese from Iceland and Greenland, and swans flying in from Siberia.
My tips for making a family outdoor adventure trip run smoothly:
• Make sure you have lots of snacks and water in the car
When outside you get hypoglycaemic in a third of the time, and children even faster, so it's important to have snacks at the ready to keep your energy levels, and therefore enjoyment, up.
Why not add some fun with an exploration pack?
There are lots of ways to bring adventure to life for children, but a great way to get them really involved is to create an expedition pack for them with everything they'll need in to explore the outdoors safely and have fun.
Suggested contents include:
1L water bottle and mug
A simple first aid kit
A hiking stove to cook hot drinks and soups as a family whilst exploring
Drinks and soups
If adults show enthusiasm, kids will too. Don't show them any weakness in your suggestions for the next activity. Children are particularly happy to stick with the familiar, but if you show them your excitement for doing something new they will jump straight on board and feed off your enthusiasm too.
Take your time to 'see'.
It takes a bit of time to really bed in to the natural landscape so take your time. Simply sitting and taking in the natural environment will slowly help you become more tuned in and you'll slowly start to spot more and more. Why not get your brew kit out and make a drink to enjoy first so that you stay warm and comfortable whilst taking everything in.
Get out and walk.
Once in the car, it becomes very easy to think that you don't need to get out and you can spot everything you need from the comfort (and warmth) of your car. But that really isn't the case. As I've said above, it takes time to really get used to the natural landscape and spot things, and the car isn't the right environment for this - you simply won't fully become tuned to the space.
Have a plan, and a back-up too!
A plan is key to make sure you cover off what you want to. I see so many families wasting the morning discussing what they should do for the day - by which time they've missed the key early morning wildlife spotting opportunities. Come with a plan so that you know when the best time is for certain activities so you don't miss out.
Although I strongly believe that the weather shouldn't stop any plans, when it comes to some activities you really do need to have a plan B in place. Water-based activities are the most likely to be spoilt by winds, so always have a back-up for these days, and even talk to the companies ahead of time to arrange two times should the first fall through.
Keep a map handy to mark where you spot things.
That way you can always return to somewhere you know has a 'sure thing' if your kids feel like they haven't seen as much as the day before. They'll still feel the magic in spotting new animals, and really won't mind that it's the same location.
Have the right clothing.
It's important to stay warm and dry when it's cold and wet, or protected from the sun when it's hot so ensure you've got all the right kit (and ideally some changes of clothes should you need it). The worst thing is having clothing that's not protecting you from the weather conditions as that can directly impact on your enjoyment of the trip. Also remember that children feel temperatures far more than we do, and so keep an eye on them at all times to ensure they're comfortable - just because you are, they may not be.