Getting out in nature together is so good for kids and adults, but it can be a little daunting to take kids out to hike and play in natural places for various reasons. These are some of my best summer mom hacks from years of experience for adventure days and other summer fun.
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We love taking a few special trips in the summer, but most of our fun and best memories are made in natural watering holes, beachy areas, and fun in the backyard.
While I know how amazing and fun (and free) getting out for adventure can be, I also know that it honestly be a little overwhelming and somewhat exhausting to take a bunch of kids out for the day/afternoon. I know that for many, just the thought of going for a hike with your kids, or taking them to play in a creek, or going fishing at a dock stresses you out. Or maybe, you really want to incorporate more outdoor time in your family life, but you don’t know where to begin, or possibly had a negative experience that now holds you back.
I just want to say first of all, that you aren’t alone in feeling this way! But I 100% believe that there are ways to make adventuring outdoors with kids (even babies and toddlers) fun and manageable– easy even!
After regularly taking our kids out for several years, I have learned through much experience (re: trial and error) a LOT of ways to streamline the process. Basically, my goals for outings are…
- more FUN
- less MESS
- more CHILL time for mama
- BETTER FLOW out the door and once we get back home
- all basic needs PLANNED FOR
10 Summer Mom Hacks for Better (& Easier!) Family Adventures
1. GRAB & GO ESSENTIALS BY THE DOOR (OR IN THE CAR)
Keeping things by the door isn’t exactly a “hack”, but it is one of the best things you can do to streamline the process of getting out the door. Last year, I kept a lot of our summer items in a basket near the door, but this year I’ve taken it up a notch. The summer adventure items (like buckets, nets, goggles, etc) stay in the back of the car so there’s one less thing to grab. You can check out exactly what we keep in the car in this Packing the Car for Adventures post.
There is one hack I can share, though! I use push pins to hang our sunglasses near the door. The sunglasses are easily in view, won’t get scratched, and are much less likely to get misplaced when they have a convenient place to hang. I’ve been storing my sunglasses like this for well over a year, and have no plans to change.
Give it a try and stop spending extra time hunting for sunglasses before you leave!
2. SPECIAL DRINK FOR THE DRIVE HOME
Pack a coffee or special drink for you for the drive home. This has been AMAZING recently and I never plan to stop having hot coffee waiting for me when I finally get everyone back in the car and situated for the drive home.
I have been tagged on Instagram so many times since I shared this last year when I first shared this hack. Your special drink doesn’t have to be coffee– it could be sweet tea, hot tea, a smoothie…whatever! The point is that it’s something to look forward to, and it can keep you awake and alert after an adventure.
3. POPSICLES IN A DOUBLE-WALLED DRINK CONTAINER
This hack is new to me this year, but I’m super pumped about it! I’ve been using my Reduce party pitcher to pack popsicles to take along on outings. The double-walled insulated pitcher keeps the popsicles frozen for HOURS. Plus, I can fit about 12 or so in the pitcher, so I can bring enough for our family and another.
I highly recommend trying this hack this summer. The cold popsicles are so refreshing on hot days. I keep these Welch’s juice bars stocked at all times during the spring and summer. The popsicles are just juice– no added sugar or artificial coloring.
(Here’s a bonus hack too– I have a SOG key knife on my keychain that comes in handy on the regular, including for opening popsicles!)
4. COLD WATER & EXTRA REFILL BOTTLES
Not having enough water is a surefire way to put an end to an outing. Last summer my kids were regularly drinking all of their water and needing more, so for Christmas I gifted each child a larger Hydro Cell water bottle. I bought one for myself too!
We love the Hydro Cells. They come in lots of different colors, which is nice if you have multiple kids and want different colors for each. They also come with two different styes of lids.
Whatever kind of water bottle you go with, just make sure you have enough! In addition to our individual water bottles, I also have large insulated growlers to keep extra water on hand in the car to refill our bottles. The water stays cold, which is so nice since we’re usually refilling water bottles towards the end of an adventure when we’re hot and tired.
Bonus tip: filling water bottles is a perfect job for kids to do. Delegate!
5. ADVENTURE CLOTHES FOR MOM & KIDS
Dressing well for time outside is another key component for fun summer adventures. I have learned from experience that what we wear can have a significant impact on how comfortable we are and how long we want to stay outside.
Wearing clothing and shoes that can go from creek to trail is another one of my favorite tips to share. I focus on clothes that are lightweight and loose-fitting and quick-drying.
Of course, my disclaimer is that you don’t have to buy a specific wardrobe to have fun outside. You don’t have to wear what we wear. My goal is to share what works really well for us, in hope that it can inspire and help you to be more comfortable and have more fun on your own adventures!
FOR THE MAMA
In the summer, staying somewhat cool, being able to get my clothes wet/dirty if I need to help my kids is important.
Loose fitting tanks are my go-to tops, and comfortable shorts with deep pockets are next. I’ve shared this a few times already, but these shorts from Academy are my FAVORITE. If I know we are going to be near/in water, I try to wear quick-dry clothes just like my kids. I am loving Target’s All-In-Motion quick-dry/exercise tanks, shorts, and sports bras for this!
As far as shoes go, Keens, Chacos, Crocs, Natives, etc make great options for kids and adults. My favorite are these classic Chacos.
FOR THE KIDS
As for my kids, they also have their own summer wardrobe of quick dry clothes. They know exactly what to put on if I tell them to get dressed for an adventure/water day, and they have enough tops and shorts that I don’t have to be doing laundry everyday.
All my kids’ water clothes are from the Breathe On line at Old Navy and again, the All-in-Motion kids’ line at Target. My kids live in their Crocs all summer long (we always save a lot of money getting our kids’ Crocs on Sierra Trading Post).
6. EVERYBODY HELPS
Between the water, adventure gear, food, and such…there can be a lot to carry! As your kids get older, it gets easier to get everyone involved in getting ready to go, and then in toting what you need.
The more often you get out for hikes, trips to the creek, or even trips to the playground, everyone will learn what needs to be done. It can be helpful to consistently give your kids the same jobs each time you’re going out. They have a stake in the process and will do it better and faster each time.
Once you’re out, let each child carry something, even if it’s just something small. The younger kids like to carry my lightweight chair, or their own backpacks. My older boys help to carry the adventure tote, water bottle bag, or their own larger tactical day packs.
7. GO-TO SNACK FOR EVERY OUTING
In my “get out the door basket” by the door, I keep a container of peanuts, raisins, and banana chips. I grab this and tuck it in my backpack or purse for a very simple and filling snack while we are out. Sometimes we need it, other times we don’t. But it’s with us and ready, won’t melt in the car, and is something all the family enjoys.
8. STASH A SPECIAL TREAT FOR THE LAST LEG OF THE HIKE/ THE WALK BACK TO THE CAR/ THE DRIVE HOME
Bring a special treat or fun snack for the walk back to the car when it’s time to say goodbye and leave. Fruit strips, lollipops, etc can sweeten the sting of having to leave, serve as a distraction, and can also give a little energy boost to help everyone get back.
I shared this tip last year and it’s another one that I’ve heard from many who have started using this hack too. I like to keep YumEarth suckers tucked in my backpack, and then a handful more in the first aid kit (lollipops are also helpful for calming down kids if they’ve gotten hurt).
9. CAR SICKNESS REMEDIES & TRICKS
I have a couple of kids who struggle with getting car sick on longer trips. We’ve tried different things in the past, but as one child has mostly grown out of it, I have hopes that my other child will too.
In the meantime, we’re currently having some relief with the first several tips in this list. I asked for others’ experiences and tips on Instagram, and these are what people shared. I think it’s just important to remember that there’s no one certain fix. Give a few a try and see what works best.
CAR SICKNESS REMEDIES ::
- sit front and center
- don’t start a ride on an empty stomach
- open windows for air flow
- install window shades to avoid direct sunlight
- bring “neutral” food to snack on (we like pirate’s booty or peanuts)
- use peppermint (gum, essential oil, mints)
- pack emesis bags just in case
- always keep a package of wipes and a change of clothes on hand just in case
- use motion sickness tablets for longer trips
10. ADVENTURE DAY MENU
The last hack on my list is a menu for adventure days. It’s important to consider both what you will eat while you are out of the house (whether you are packing a lunch or just snacks), AND what you will eat when you get back home (because you are not going to want to do a lot of cooking!).
One of the biggest, most important, things I’ve learned over the years is that if I don’t bring enough food to eat while we are out…we won’t be out for long. I HAVE to pack high-protein snacks/lunches, plenty of water, and food that is appealing when everyone is getting hangry..
Dinner on adventure days MUST be quick and easy! If you do not have a plan when you’re leaving the park, you will find it very hard to resist drive-thru. (There’s nothing wrong with the drive-thru. We did it last night. But I can’t afford to do that every time we come home.)
I recently put together a new list of the easiest dinners to make after adventure days– dinners that you can prep ahead of time, pull from the freezer, or quickly throw together once you’re back home. You can check out the list and get a free printable Adventure Day Menu here:
BONUS FAVORITE MOM HACKS FROM READERS ::
- Extra bags! Having plenty of bags to keep wet clothes together, gear tidy, and trash/supplies contained really helps.
- If your kids want to fish, bring something extra for younger kids (or those that don’t want to fish) to stay occupied. Watching people fish from the bank or dock is only fun for the first ten minutes 😉
- Find places to go by asking around, joining outdoor/nature groups on Facebook, getting a Day Trips book for your area, or finding a Wild & Free group near you.
- Make popsicles with extra/leftover smoothie.
- Fill gallon jugs of water and leave in the car. Use the warm water to rinse sandy hands and feet.
- Microfiber camping towels to reduce packing bulk.
- Reserve certain audiobooks for listening in the car. Kids get excited about the ride home.
- Let young kids use spray bottles from the dollar store (instead of water guns). They’re easier, last longer, and there’s not much mess.
- Plan a crockpot/easy dinner for after adventures so you don’t have to leave early to come home and prepare.
- Always save a snack for the ride home! (I usually reserve apples for this because they’re filling and take a while to eat)
- Keep a laundry basket in the car or by the door for wet/dirty clothes.
- Soapy water play after sand play!
- Make a changing station in the trunk. Not only babies, but dry, clean clothes for the drive home.
- Keep a package of paper plates in the van just in case. They come in handy often.
- Keep a “summer” bag always packed with essentials. (I do this with a “summer box” we summer items in)
- Make a calendar for chores and schoolwork for kids to refer to in the mornings.
- Use cloth diaper wet bags for wet clothes. They never leak!
- Stand the bag of popsicles upright when freezing.
- Eat at least one meal outside everyday to reduce the mess inside.
- Keep a small soft cooler filled with snacks in the car for unexpected long outings.
- Always keep necessities stashed in the car!
- Ear plugs. (#nuffsaid)
- Use a caddy for school supplies to carry items like sunscreen, water, phone, etc, with you outside.
- Give each kid a fanny pack to carry.
- Sand cloud towels.
- Pop-up beach tents that pack small and light.
- Keep a spray bottle in the car to quickly cool down carseats when you get back to a hot car.
- Always keep a picnic blanket and extra swim suits in the car…just in case!
- Two meals out of the week I make a 4x batch and freeze for tough days
- Pack a makeup sponge in the beach bag for easy facial sunscreen application on kids!
- Use old peri bottle with clean water to spray/wash kids hands before lunch at the beach.
- Keep bottled water and packaged snacks in the car.
- Popsicles always buy extra time outside for kids. (This always works at our house too!)
- Let the kids paint with water the sidewalk, driveway, or side of the house.
Do you have any tips I’ve left off? Please leave them in the comments!
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