Get Outside - Bring the Kids!
The world is suffering a major setback at the moment. Our newsfeeds are full of information about Covid-19 and people are taking extreme measures to stay safe while the world makes an attempt to heal, or at least not get worse. Rightfully so. With this in mind, most parents are working from home and doing their best to work to their fullest capacity while also trying to engage their children all day, every day. Parenting is difficult at the best of times, but right now it’s the hardest it’s ever been because our children need us more than ever. With playgrounds closed, provincial parks closed, gyms and pools closed and any other community space, finding ways to keep our kids active and the family’s mental health high is a challenge.
Here’s a list of 5 really awesome things you can do with your kids in Kingston, or maybe just a short drive away. These are not new innovative ideas. You already know that these things exist, but sometimes we all need a reminder of the simple things in life.
Currently, Provincial Parks are closed but the Conservation Areas have recently opened up again and are waiting for people to explore them. This is the easiest thing to do with your kids and there’s no barrier to entry. Kingston has numerous wooded trails within city limits that can provide an instant connection to the outdoors. There’s the Rideau Trail which has multiple entry points, there’s the stroller friendly K&P trail and of course Lemoine’s Point. You can easily make any of these trails provide a short, 30 minute stroll or you can stretch them out to longer adventures. But, don’t just walk! You can point out birds, different types of trees, see what’s hiding under rocks by the stream. Creating a forum for discovery might be what makes the kiddos want to come back. Or, go out with a goal in mind like collecting fallen pine cones for the afternoon’s kitchen table art project. Ya know, just make it fun! If you do nothing else, make sure your backpack is loaded with snacks. It’s funny how a granola bar can distract the strongest will to stop your plans of a fun family hike!
2. Day Hike.
OK, this one is admittedly kind of the same as the above, but with a twist. On days when you have a little bit more time, spending most of the day in the woods is a really special way to entertain your kids. Much like the availability of trails within the city, Kingston’s surrounding area has some amazing places that we are fortunate to have access to within 30-45 minutes. We have Gould Lake, Little Cat Creek and Rock Dunder to name a few. Do a little planning, pack a lunch, tons of water and snack and get out there, way out there! One of my personal favourites is accessing land where camp fires are allowed so that lunch becomes a cook out. Kids love this, they get to watch/help you make a fire, see you cooking a little but most of all they get to explore the immediate area while the parents tend to the fire. The freedom to explore is a wonderful gift to our littles that will pay itself back over and over again as they age.
Much like the ways hiking gives your children a connection to the woods, paddling introduces them to the wonderful world of open water. Of course, this is a bit more involved than hiking but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. A canoe and some life jackets and you’re pretty much set. You can paddle Lake Ontario’s shoreline or take a short drive up to our almost immediately accessible cottage country. Loughborough Lake, Collins Lake, Kingston Mills and Gould Lake are a few of my favourites. You can make it a short paddle just to get out, or make it a longer adventure much like in 1 and 2 above. Bonus points if you get some mini paddles and involve the kids in the work of navigating and moving. Sing silly songs, scour the shoreline for driftwood, bring a waterproof camera and let them document the adventure from their eyes…you might be amazed at what they see!
This one’s my favourite. Remember riding a bike as a kid? This is the ultimate introduction to freedom, jump on the bike and explore your neighbourhood streets, or get off road on the K&P trail! If you’re sticking to the streets, make a game of it! See how many blue vs white cars you see parked or challenges for how many laps you can do on the cull-de-sac. If you’re riding a gravel or wooded trail, try any of the ideas mentioned in the hike section.
5. Get Creative.
Don’t want to leave home? I get it. Convert whatever outdoor space you have into your own slice of wilderness. Those piles of leaves you forgot to rake in the fall, empty plant pots and fallen tree branches are the makings of a natural backyard obstacle course! Or, on these relentless rainy days when you just can’t take another splashing in puddles session, clear out your garage and turn it into a gymnastics studio or ball hockey court. You get it. Get out and get doing!
No one knows where this is going or how long it will take things to even become remotely normal again. One thing we do know is that we need to stay active and healthy. As outdoor enthusiasts we all know the benefits of inhaling fresh air for mental and physical health. See how you can get creative with variations of these 5 “ideas,” you’ll be glad you did.