The outdoors is best explored together. The happy family gallivanting along, wife beaming and children laughing, wide-stretched landscapes and glorious views in every direction. It paints a pretty picture, but not it’s not always simple to achieve.

I became a father for the first time about eight months ago. As a lover of the outdoors, of course I want my son to grow up sharing that passion. As I held the little bundle of joy those first weeks, I pictured us hiking along beautiful ridges, through deep forests, father and son exploring the wild together. Better plant the seed early I thought, and after about six weeks I figured it was time for a first outing. I dragged the family along to nearby Pentland Hills, baby sling in hand, donning my best gear that had been sitting in the closet for too long. This was nothing big, just a gentle stroll really, I thought as we pulled into the car park. It would just take a couple of hours.  One screaming baby, an angry wife and 20 minutes later we were back in the car again. Not quite the spectacular day of hiking I had imagined.

I had, of course, tried way too much too soon. The experience was a real eye opener for me.

Since then I have been thinking and talking to a lot people. The conclusion I have come to is that for children to really learn to enjoy the outdoors you need to make sure that it is on their terms, not yours. A picnic in the park around the corner might not seem as the wild outdoors to you, but to a child it does. It might be hard to see the connection between something as small as that and the demanding walks, treks, or climbs you see as the outdoors. However, being outside, however small the activity is, is the foundation of all that. When I think back to my childhood, it definitely was.

When I was young my grandparents took my sister and I walking in Jamtland in Sweden. We hiked from hut to hut over the course of a couple of days. It is a walk that I would jump at the opportunity to do again today. But back then I remember absolutely hating it. I didn’t see the point of it, we were just walking, what was the big deal?

Instead, what I loved was the casual play outside. Picking blueberries in the woods behind the house, wrestling for hours with family Germany Sheppard, and relentlessly counting the water salamanders in a pond close to home. I think it is in these little activities that my love for the outdoors is rooted.

Another point worth making when considering children and the outdoors is that kids will rarely tell you why they don’t like something, they will just make it very clear that they don’t. If they are cold or wet, they won’t say “hey, I’m sure this would be great if I had a better coat, but as it stands I’m cold and therefore I’m not enjoying this.” Instead, they will just cry or sulk. Inevitably you will turn around, or at least all enjoyment will have been lost.

If you want your family to spend time with you outside, it is more important that they have quality gear than that you do. If you have fantastic gear, but your family doesn’t, it is unlikely that it will do you much good since it will more often than not be stuck in the back of a closet. I think this is a way of looking at things that is more commonly accepted in Scandinavia than it is here in the UK, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

As my son continues to grow, small activities will be the way forward. Sometimes my wife will still have to hold me back when I want to go just a little bit further to see what is around the next corner, and then, inevitably, want to go around the next corner after that. Yet, I don’t feel like I am giving anything up. We are still outside, which is what matters to me. And after all, the outdoors really is best enjoyed together.