Nature Rocks – Share it with Your Kids

We fell in love (deep, deep love) with the mountains quickly after moving to Switzerland. Miles would dissipate as we witnessed nature at its finest. The snow covered crests, waterfalls, fresh air, wild flowers; we were hooked and we vowed that we would continue to do what we love once our children arrived. Sure we took a break for a bit while our children emerged from the infant stage, but it didn’t take us long to seek refuge from all of our parenting woes on those trails. And with a very active son, immersing ourselves in nature became a way to instill calm on those overly energetic days! 2013-07-26-Zrmat_0658-0663_L

Whenever we tell people we went for a hike over a weekend or on a vacation with our children, the response is usually the same, “How do you hike with your kids?” I promise you, it is possible, though I will never promise you that it is always without complaint, multiple stops, creative attempts at peeing or pooping in the woods, and lots and lots of positive reinforcement. But despite the whimpers and the whines, some of our happiest moments as a family are spent exploring nature. Whether it be hiking on local trails or stepping it up and hiking in the Alps, we have listed a few tips and tricks that will help get your family out the door and into nature.

2013-07-13-Mrngn_338Step one and probably the most important step of all – Prepare yourself mentally. Take an extra shot of patience in the morning, pat yourself on the back and know you can do this! Fresh air, dirt beneath your feet and trees all have incredible healing powers, let the nature wash over you.

2013-07-26-Zrmat_0672Step Two: To get started, pick a trail that you are both familiar and comfortable with. There is nothing worse than getting lost with your little people in tow. This brings light to the phrase, “Are we almost there yet?”

2013-07-26-Zrmat_0665Step Three: Select a trail that is relatively short and not too hilly. Your little ones will be grateful as they build their leg muscles and their love of hiking, in other words, ease into it slowly.

2013-06-08-Kids_11Step Four: Try to select a trail that offers some eye candy or extra fun along the way. A playground at the conclusion of any trail is always great incentive to keep going. Hiking by a river, or a stream can also be enjoyable ways to distract children. Switzerland is the perfect place to start hiking with children, with multiple family – friendly theme trails (www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/family/family-excursions/family-friendly-theme-trails.html) you won’t have to beg your children to get out and explore!

Step Five: Stop for a picnic. Yep, pack a sheet or blanket, your lunch and spread yourselves out, relax, eat, drink and enjoy the setting.  Breaks are essential when traveling with little ones and who doesn’t love a picnic in nature?

Step Six: Let them pick- up stones, find the perfect walking stick, collect bugs, including ooey, gooey snails, search for the moon, discover shapes in the clouds; all of these little games help children discover the joy of being in nature. We also create scavenger hunts for our children encouraging them to find certain treasures along the trail.

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Step Seven: Bring lots and lots of snacks including some sweeties (I am not a big sweetie fan, but sometimes a favorite treat is necessary). Our kids go crazy for gummy bears and sometimes that is just what we need to get us through the final stretch, but don’t hand them out all at once. One here, one there, or incentivize them by saying, “When we get to the tree with the bird house you can have another gummy bear.” I know this is bribery and if I just went down a notch in your parental diary, I am sorry, but it does work.

2013-07-26-Zrmat_0521Step Eight: If your children are little, please bring along a carrier. There is nothing worse than carrying a tired child and not having free hands while on a trail. We LOVED the Ergo for being lightweight, easy to pack, comfortable and snuggly for both of our children. Plus, I was also able to nurse the children in the carrier, while I was walking (I know, more information than you needed), but what a way to multitask!

2012-09-14-Muren_102Step Nine: I am not a big endorser of baby products, but the B.O.B. stroller (made in San Luis Obispo, CA) was hands – down one of the absolute best investments we ever made as parents. That stroller crushes it – hard-core. We trekked that thing up gondolas, on Alpine trails, through city streets and it was and still is, indestructible, which is what you want when your child is tethered inside. The three point harness always kept our children safe and secure despite the terrain.

2012-06-01-Bort_065Step Ten: And when it comes to packing, despite my enthusiasm for minimalism, don’t leave home without the following: plenty of water, wet wipes, plastic bags, a change of clothes (hopefully just for the kiddos), a medical kit, sunscreen, sunglasses, tick spray (natural formulas are available at your local drugstore) hats, scarves and treats for the entire group.   Having sturdy hiking shoes, even for the children is quite helpful.

2013-07-13-Mrngn_285So, get out and go, as there is so much to explore and discover! Oh, and before you lace –up those hiking boots, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes as a parent and another reason to continue to share the love of nature with your children. “Teaching our children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” Thomas Berry

Book Recommendation:
For further reading on the power of nature on our children, nature deficit disorder and an influential read for all parents, consider the following: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

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The Human Cry for Nature

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

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We spend too much time indoors, a place we were never intended to dwell for long. Certainly we require shelter, but there are benefits to be gained from spending time outside, such as: feeling connected to nature, stress reduction, and Vitamin D exposure. Nature has such a profound impact on our well being that some doctors are even prescribing nature as a way to treat depression and anxiety.

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When we step into a dense forest, watch a sunrise over a river, or feel dirt in our hands something amazing happens. We step away from the intensity of our everyday lives and begin to slow down. We witness seasons, tiny miracles spread out before us and we know intuitively that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves.

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“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

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Need a bit of inspiration for the entire family, read on!

Sculpture Trail – Reinach

Nature Rocks

Forest Playgroup

“To walk into nature is to witness a thousand miracles.” Mary Davis

One more reason to get outside with a touch of incredible humor:

Don’t Miss Posts from 2014

There’s a lot of Blogging out there, so if you’re looking to travel to Europe this year, here are a few Posts from More2Explore which you might find of interest.  Some are great places to visit, others are tips about traveling with kids, and some are just good advice for exploring as you go.

Lammas in Liechtenstein#1 Family Hotel Gorfion – Malbun, Liechtenstein – Hiking with your kids and lammas? Enjoying some parental alone time with the kids off on their own adventure? Or was it the free ice cream? It was all good, and this Family Hotel rates as one of our favorites! Not to miss if you are in Liechtenstein. (There are also a few in Austria, shhh!)

Stellisee 1# 2 Zermatt – Too Incredible to Skip – We love Zermatt! And the hiking is just incredible. If you are in Switzerland, you should not miss this quintessential place. We visited during the summer and wished we spent more time there. This post is about some of the hiking adventures.

2009-04-08_SB_103#3 When Less is More – Here’s to Less! (cheers) As Expats, we’re in a country with profound transportation ease, and we celebrate the simplicity and appreciate minimalism when in contrast to our post-America lifestyle.

 

2011-10-13_Brlin_074#4 56 Hours in Berlin, Germany – A short trip, in a city with a lot to offer. If you only have a short time to visit Berlin, then here are a few things to you might consider seeing or doing.

 

2013-07-26-Zrmat_0665#5 Nature Rocks – Share it with Your Kids – Ditch the technology, your kids will thank you later. This is the best thing you can do with them, and hey, you might learn a thing or two along the way.

 

DSC_3608e#6 Speechless – If you haven’t noticed, we’re still in our “honeymoon” phase from our visit to Iceland. This post highlights the jewel in the south known as Jökulsarlon and should convince you too, to take this epic journey.

 

2014-10-18-Mrshc_080#7 Why I Love the Push – A late summer visit to central Switzerland, and we found ourselves persevering through an awesome ridge-line hike with spectacular views with our two kids. Here is to perseverance and a touch of being ballsy.

 

Summer Fun!#8 Forest Play Ground – Where Dirt is Learning – Got kids? Trying to find your inner child? We cheers the outdoors, and highlight what outside can bring you and your kids. Get Out & Go, with your kids!

 

 

2013-11-08 - FTREG - Padua 129#9 On the Road to Health – Are you afraid to travel because you might not know what food you might encounter? We invite you to live life and enjoy food the way the locals do. Plus, your experience always makes a great story.

 

 

2014-10-11-Mrshc_054#10 The Weekend Retreat – Above Lake Luzern – Another recommendation, this one is in central Switzerland, and has much to offer in the surrounding area. Check this post out if you are going to be near Luzern.

 

 

We hope you enjoy these other great posts!  (you can always bookmark them and stop by later)  =o)

Reykjavik – Hard to Spell – Easy To Enjoy

Reykjavík, the most densely populated location in all of Iceland, offers up an urban flair with beautiful light-haired people taking to the streets, wonderful museums, waterfront landscapes and delicious food. We enjoyed our time in the city, but to be honest, we came to connect with nature and after a while, the city felt claustrophobic and flooded our ears with urban noise. Our next post will divulge how we enjoyed a perfect mix of city life and country landscapes. Stay tuned! 2014-08-01 - Iceland 002e

For the few days we did spend in the city, we certainly indulged in some sweet cafés, fabulous museum exhibits, lovely fish and chips, and enjoyed people watching at the local skate park.

Eats

C is For Cookie – A sweet little café that serves up a killer Swiss Mocha and a beautiful cappuccino, with friendly service, a cozy atmosphere, crayons with awesome Icelandic names and a quirky playground of sorts that entertained our children for a while in the warmth of the sun.

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Laundromat Café – A funky, eclectic joint that serves up smoothies, muesli, burgers and a slew of other mealtime treats. A great place to sit outside and people watch, or move inside to browse their rainbow display of books. Friendly service, decent food at a reasonable price and a very pleasant atmosphere, plus if you do have a load of laundry, throw it in downstairs while you enjoy a nice cup of coffee or a meal.

 

Reykjavík Fish and Chips – Our entire family truly enjoyed our early dinner of sweet potato and classic fries served in small little pots, along with some fresh fish. With a variety of homemade sauces for dipping, the whole family was happy.

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Uno – A random dinner choice in the middle of town with a delicious result, though the prices were rather steep. Overall, a nice place to dine, but careful with your wallet! Yikes!

Museums/Attraction

We visited the Reykjavík Museum of Photography to see the work of RAX or (Ragnar Axelsson) and were thrilled with its free entry, captivated by the magnificently huge photographs that jumped off the canvas and a movie that profiled the life and work of this truly talented photographer. This museum was certainly worth the visit and left us longing to make some sizable purchases. To learn more about Ragnar and his life work, we found this short film.  If you came to Iceland to take some photos, his work is sure to inspire.

Volcano House – Is essentially a movie house with a small display of various volcanic rocks and ash. The two short films shown profiled the devastating 1973 volcano eruption on the Westman Islands and the second film included details of the 2010 explosion of Eyjafjallajökull. Both films showed how destructive volcanoes on the island can be for those who reside in close contact and how determined the Icelandic people are to restore their land.

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Hallgrimskirkja – The Lutheran church in Reykjavík, which opened its doors in 1986. Is a striking structure (that our son lovingly called the “rocket ship”) which offers a beautiful view of Reykjavík for six euros, those interested can take the lift to the top of the building, climb a set of stairs and enjoy an aerial view of the city.

2014-08-02 - Iceland 0222014-08-02 - Iceland 109Accommodation

Athena Guesthouse – Located on a weathered street, the Athena Guesthouse is a modest accommodation, which shares four rooms with random guests. We had the privilege of meeting an aunt and niece from Israel and Europe and a sweet, well-traveled couple from Canada. The owner/manager is as chill and laid-back as humanly possible and restored our faith in humanity. The house worked for us, with a communal kitchen, a well – stocked fridge for making your own breakfasts, and within walking distance from the city center.

Laxnes Hotel – The reviews were quite favorable, but our impression was just ordinary. Our room was certainly spacious for our family of four and we appreciated the fact that it was indeed clean, but the breakfast could have been skipped all together, (there is however, a lovely bakery not far up the road that we can highly recommend) and the location of the hotel was essentially a bit out-of-the-way. Would we stay there again, probably not, but overall it met our rooming needs.

The Blue Lagoon

Yes, it certainly is expensive and a tourist destination, but to visit Iceland and not make a trip to the Blue Lagoon, feels like visiting Florida and not going to the beach. You have to go! The atmosphere is essentially like nothing we have ever experienced and our children enjoyed the warm soak with pretty cool views. It was the perfect way to get into the flow of Iceland, as this was our first destination to visit once our plane landed. 2014-07-31 - Iceland 144eA travel tip that saved us the frustration of waiting in a long line and paying a touch extra was to buy our tickets online in advance. We simply printed the receipt, showed the woman at the front door and moved forward to get our wristbands and proceed with our afternoon of relaxation. We also elected to bring our own towels and slippers to save some additional cash.

2014-07-31 - Iceland 057Oh, and for all those prude Americans, you will need to shower naked (oh the audacity) yep, that means without your bathing suit before entering the lagoon. No worries, you can slip back into your suit before enjoying the warmth.

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Reykjavík might be hard to spell, but is certainly easy to enjoy.  Our overall impression of Reykjavík was quite favorable, but again, Iceland is for the love of the land, so don’t stay too long in the city, get out and explore this remarkable country.

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