Planting Seeds for Adventure

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Experience life through your child’s eyes and embrace exploration with him using these tips from moms.

My 10-year-old daughter stands motionless before a large black-and-white photograph of two girls on a beach. Nearby, her 12-year-old sister studies a photo caption, while my youngest tugs me toward another set of pictures. We linger unexpectedly during a summer afternoon in the gallery exhibit. One would never guess the moans and complaints preceding our visit — moans and complaints that often surface at the suggestion of something new. But this successful outing gives me hope.

Almost every mom has experienced how difficult it can be to convince kids to explore the unknown — even in the name of fun. Kids find comfort in the familiar. It can be easy to give in to their reluctance. But as some moms prove, it is possible to cultivate an adventurous spirit in your kids.

Here are 5 seeds you can plant to grow your own young explorers:

1. Explore locally.

Sharon Rezac, a mother of two, periodically scans local magazines, newspapers and fliers for upcoming events her family can try. “Those give you a lot of ideas and introduce you to things you might otherwise not ever hear about,” she says.

Watch for activities near your home that offer chances for the family to get out. This allows you to incorporate adventure into your life more frequently. And the proximity makes for less time-consuming options, should the experimental outing turn out less than favorable.

2. Listen to your child.

To improve your success in delving into new territory, pay attention to your child when choosing what to do. During everyday conversation, notice what piques her interest.
“I don’t think we listen enough to kids,” says Isabella Von Der Linden, a mother of two. “Take your cues from them. What are they interested in?”

Discovering those enthusiasms may be an adventure all its own. When sports fell flat for Rezac’s son, she learned to branch out in her search for free-time activities. Her whole family benefitted as a result. “It all comes down to finding out what they really like,” she says.

3. Watch your pace.

My husband and I learned the importance of pacing while on a family ski trip. When our two youngest appeared comfortable on the smallest slopes, we decided to move them up to harder terrain in spite of their protests. What followed was a tortuous descent as they sidestepped most of the way down. We spent the next few hours exhausted and unhappy.

The lesson? Follow your child’s lead when venturing into new territory. Some kids throw themselves into strange settings without hesitation. Others, like our two, need time to acclimate. Learn to accept your child’s pace. Otherwise you risk frustrating her or turning her off.

4. Prepare, prepare & prepare some more.

Some children’s reluctance stems from ignorance. It’s the classic “fear of the unknown.” Considering that, help erase her fears by making the new endeavor less foreign. If possible, look up photos online. Discuss what to expect. Create a sense of positive anticipation by framing it as a date you’re looking forward to. Count down the days. Collect and pack supplies.

It can also help to ask what makes her hesitant about the idea. Does it sound boring to her? Why? Relate the activity to a familiar interest. Give her strategies for what you’ll do if her fears come true. Suggest something like, “if it really is that boring, we don’t have to stay the whole time.”

Von Der Linden creates anticipation for her kids by reading, sharing a personal story or watching a movie related to an upcoming trip or outing. “And all of a sudden she’s asking questions and wanting to see it,” she says of her daughter.

5. Once often is not enough.

As adults, we know from experience our perspective on an activity or location changes as we become more acquainted with it. When introducing kids to new undertakings, it helps to remember their initial reaction doesn’t need to be their final opinion. The first time we visited a water park, our girls were not impressed. But the next time we took a day to splash and slide, they enjoyed it more. Now they’re comfortable anywhere at our local water park.

“I don’t always take no for an answer,” Rezac emphasizes. “It’s a matter of pushing. Sometimes you have to be tough on them.”

Von Der Linden sees each opportunity as a stepping stone. She encourages her children to build on their experiences and take new skill sets or knowledge into trying the next thing. Once they finish one class or outing, she’s often quick to point out a possible next step.

When the spirit of adventure doesn’t materialize, hang in there. As Von Der Linden says, “Don’t give up. It’s so easy to do so. We have our own ideas and time frame. Try again.”

When you’re diligent in planting those seeds for adventure and tending them regularly, they’ll soon blossom and bear fruit. Von Der Linden emphasizes, “Adventure is how you think about things.”
Which explains all the more why it’s so rewarding when we reap the harvest of our efforts.

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Lara Krupicka is a freelance writer, mom of three girls, and author of "Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure, and Camaraderie Into Every Day" (Wordcrafter Communications; 2013).

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