If you are like many of us, you spend more time than you would like nagging your kids to put down the electronic devices and go outside. I am not sure exactly when I became my parents but it definitely happened. Electronic devices can be a lifesaver for parents needing a mental break and they are a fact of life for teenagers nowadays. That being said, however, I still believe in the benefits of being outside and I am struggling to get the kids to believe that as well. Sometimes a cool new toy can be just the thing to get them excited about the great outdoors, whether on a camping trip or just fun in your backyard. Here are some of our best ideas, conveniently in time for the holidays.
I can personally vouch for this being fun and being a great gift idea for the entire family. It is difficult to master but in a good, challenging kind of way. The kids loved practicing on it and all you need are two trees. It is not just for your house either. I saw a kid set one up at a campground during an extended stay and he was quickly the most popular kid there.
2. ENO hammock (or knockoff)
These hammocks are all the rage nowadays but for good reason. They are easy to set up and kids love hanging out in them. To be fair, I also love hanging out in mine. String one up in your backyard and it is a perfect reading nook. Or if you can’t get that teenager off the phone, then at least they can continue with their Snapchat outside. It’s a win.
* My two cents- if you go with a knockoff version, which are significantly cheaper than an ENO and work just as well, invest in the ENO straps. They are well made and easily adjustable to several lengths. The straps that come with the less expensive hammocks often require that you find two trees a precise distance apart. Also, get a large, or double nest hammock. It is more comfortable for full- size adults and easier for kids to pile in with their friends.
3. Paddleboard/ sit on top kayak
This might seem like a huge investment but bear with me and you’ll see why I think it is worth it. Kids love paddleboarding and kayaking. Getting out on a river to explore or just taking them out on a lake and jumping off to swim is always a crowd-pleaser. Kids that groan at the thought of hiking or biking will grin at the thought of an afternoon on the water. Especially on summer afternoons when it is too hot to do anything else, you will appreciate having a kayak or paddleboard around to entice them outside. If you don’t have the storage for a hard version, look for an inflatable kayak or paddleboard.
Another “kids” toy that adults will have just as much fun on. Think of it as a stand-up swing that gives you a good core workout. You will need a tree with a fairly large branch or you can hang the Swurfer between two trees on a cable. It can also hang under a tall deck. Installation isn’t difficult and everybody will want to play, which makes it a pretty good gift in my book. Also a handy gift for the grown- up that's actually just a kid masquerading as an adult. You know exactly who I mean.
5. A hydration backpack
I have found that the key to getting the kids to drink enough on hikes and bike rides is a hydration pack. I have also found that an increase in hydration leads to a decrease in whining. Put those two facts together and that's we invested in backpacks for each of them. The kids really like drinking out of the tube and I really like that they can carry their own stuff. They enjoy being in control of their own gear as well. We bought cheap backpacks from Amazon that have done the trick well, the only drawback being that there is no room for anything besides the water bladder, sunglasses, and a few granola bars. I like the pack so much that I use it when mountain biking. There are other backpacks that are slightly bigger and include a chest strap that I might look at when it is time to replace these, but for now we are happy.
6. Luci Light
This solar-powered inflatable light is a great stocking stuffer. It works fantastically well and is waterproof, making it a valuable addition to your kayak/ paddleboard for nighttime adventures. The kids love taking them camping to hang in their tents and they are bright enough to play cards by. You can see one hanging on the front of the kayak in the picture above. They are fun even if it is just to use in the backyard telling ghost stories. It takes a few hours in sunlight to charge them completely but they hold the charge for months. The light lasts for several hours at high power. If you go to their website, you can purchase a STEM- inspired Build Your Own Light that helps teach kids how solar power works.
7. Phone mount for the bike
Sometimes you just have to pick your battles. If it is between letting a tween take her phone on her bike ride so she can make sure not to miss any texts from her friends and listen to her music or her not going at all, then by all means get a phone holder. It easy to take the phone on and off the mount, important if a sudden selfie opportunity comes up. Having a phone with her also makes me feel better about going out for a ride by herself. I like it for myself because it does an excellent job of holding the phone and it is handy for maps. Another good stocking stuffer idea!