“Come on Cristie!”, says my hubby, who has the kids in the car, put the animals outside for the day, and started the engine…
You know what comes next, don’t you. Yep, a boot load of things to make sure your kids enjoy the day outdoors, including enough food, clean spare clothes (for those messes), and their fave toy for when the excitement is too much to bear anymore. Not to mention the water bottles, sunscreen, bathers (just in case its warm), raincoats (well, this IS Victoria!), cameras, and half of the week's supply of fruit. And that is just for a one-day trip! So much for treading lightly, eh?
But, even while it might seem difficult to leave no trace with the kids in tow, there are some simple ways to reduce your family's impact on the environment while enjoying the great outdoors. And here are just a few.
Reusable Plastic Containers
Firstly, I have outlaid a not too small amount of money on fancy containers that will keep everything separate in the slim hope that, come lunchtime, the beetroot won’t have gotten into the biscuits, thereby turning them into a gooey mess (I know you know what I am talking about here)... They work! Yes, you can buy cheaper containers which last a year or so, or you can purchase expensive brand containers that don’t always live up to their amazing claims, but a good set of middle-of-the-road containers works perfectly. Opting for plastic containers eliminates the need for Glad Wrap and plastic wrappers, which you seem to find everywhere nowadays. Just take the food out of its commercial wrappers before you leave home. This also means that you don’t have to look for rubbish bins in the middle of the bush, or at the beach – any leftovers can be placed back into the reusable containers for the trip home.
Discover more: winning recipes for camping with kids
Pack Less Clothing
The spare clean clothes debate. This one can be tricky, especially when you have toilet training toddlers at home like I do, but I tend to dress my kids in clothes that I don't mind getting dirty when going outdoors. It saves my sanity too, as I don’t have to answer to great Auntie Bess as to why the tee that she gave my daughter last Christmas is covered in mud stains! By taking the angst out of the equation, you can have a lot more fun outdoors. I take an old garbage bag in the car, rip it in half, and make the kids sit on top of it when they are filthy. If you have a tarp, you could use that instead, or you can always get them to sit on beach towels. Problems solved (apart from the toilet training issues!)
Discover more: Cristie's fave games to play on family camping getaways
Toilet Training Outdoors
Toilet training in the great outdoors. Yes, I am right in the thick of it here! My first born is a boy; boys are easy most of the time. They can be taught to do a bush wee like dad, and apart from once or twice a day, can pee standing up. My poor daughter though, she wants to pee standing up too, but its just not feasible! So I bought her a travel potty with a gorgeous ladybird on the front – it even re-seals itself after use meaning no nasty leftovers in the bush for animals to dig up (and no toilet paper messes on the ground either).
Doing Away with One-Use Plastic Bottles
In this day and age – where portable water is available at most playgrounds, beach shelters, and trail heads – it's easy to use refillable drink bottles for a day out. The water industry makes millions of dollars per year on the idea that we have to buy ‘fresh’ water in plastic bottles from supermarkets / service stations / cafés, because the water in Australia is not suitable for drinking. Yes, there are some places that suggest you don’t drink from local water sources, but for the majority of places we take our kids, this isn’t an issue. I love the Camelbak kids' drink-bottles] which come in very funky styles, and are leak proof! And with a wide mouth, they are very easy to refill.
Discover more: camping the in the rain (and why it doesn't have to suck)
Show them First Hand
But the best way that I have found for encouraging kids to learn to respect the outdoors is to show them first hand the beauty of our environment: let them experience it, leave no trace, and be a good role model for them to learn from. In my next blog, I will talk about activities you can do with your kids to show them the beauty of the outdoors, and the wonders it holds…
Dinosaur dig anyone?