F – Failure

kids hill

Adapted from children-192327_1920_NickThomas @ Pixabay.com

When was the last time you failed at something? How did you handle that failure? Were you disappointed? Frustrated? Angry? Did you quit after you failed—or keep trying?

My guess is that you probably don’t like thinking about your failures. I know I don’t. I’m the kind of person who would rather just not try something to avoid failing miserably. I guess that means I have a fear of failure—but I’m not alone.

Why has failure become such a bad word in American culture? Whether or not we like to admit it, we learn more from our failures than our successes. Failing is actually a critical part of the learning process. As Dr. John Orlando explains,

The military understands the benefits of failure and actually gives soldiers tasks that they know will lead to failure at some point as a part of their training. Similarly, pilots are trained on simulators and given a variety of emergency situations until they fail.

A former mentor of mine told a great story about how when he was starting out as a young lawyer, he won several cases in a row. He got cocky, thinking he was great at his job. It wasn’t until he lost his first case that he started learning the essentials of how to really do his job. When he lost, he went to the members of the jury to ask them what he did wrong—and what he could have done better.

I’m raising a child who does not like to fail. He wants to be the best at everything he does. He cries when he loses. He gets angry with himself when he doesn’t understand something the first time.

As a parent, I want to see my children succeed. I want to see them happy. However, I also understand that now is the time for kids to learn the value of failing. Through failing, we are able to self-assess, redirect, and come back to the task with a stronger plan.

Failure Teaches Resilience

An article in Healthy Children Magazine gives a great definition of resilience and expresses its importance:

In today’s environment, children and teens need to develop strengths, acquire skills to cope, recover from hardships, and be prepared for future challenges. They need to be resilient in order to succeed in life.

With that goal in mind, I’d like to offer my own list of activities parents might engage their children in to teach them to overcome failure and strengthen their resilience:

  • Go to a ropes course: If you haven’t ever seen a ropes course (sometimes called a challenge course), you might be surprised at how low-tech they seem. You may see telephone poles with ropes strung between them, a low balance-beam-type thing, hanging logs, or some platforms attached to trees. Ropes courses aren’t about fancy equipment (although the *safety* equipment is very fancy—don’t worry!); they’re about challenging what people (and teams) believe about their own abilities. Failure is part of the challenge. It’s what a person does after failing that makes the difference.
  • Go Geocaching: Geocaching is an outdoor GPS “treasure hunt” where participants use coordinates to locate hidden caches. While many caches are easy to find, the degree of difficulty varies, meaning that sometimes you’ll fail at finding the cache. This is a great opportunity to talk about what comes after failure; what could we do the next time to be better prepared to locate the cache?
  • Play a new sport: There are some people who are just naturally gifted at sports, but for most of us, playing a new sport means we’re going to fail until we figure it out. Some kids are going to want to give up—or may not even want to try—but this is a chance to discuss ways to overcome failure—using different equipment better sized for the participants, more practice, etc.
  • Try an outdoor science experiment: Science is all about failing. It’s about trial and error. Even the best planned experiments fail many times before they succeed (if they ever do). This summer, try some outdoor science experiments. Maybe even set your kids up for failure the first time, allowing them the chance to figure out how to make the experiments succeed.

Failure shouldn’t be a bad word. Failure means we’re trying. Failing gets us one step closer to learning something new and teaches us to be resilient. What have you learned from your biggest failures?

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

E – Exercise

beach running

Adapted from sea-412578_1920_Dieter G @ Pixabay.com

Confession time: I hate exercising for the sake of exercising. I have never been a fan of going to the gym or jogging. I have a treadmill that collects more dust than miles. So, if you’re at all like me, don’t stop reading once you see that word EXERCISE. Stick with me for a few minutes…

While I do not like exercise in and of itself, I love getting outside. There’s something about the fresh air and change in scenery that makes me want to be active. Suddenly, I feel like grabbing the rake or trimming a tree. I’m bouncing a basketball with one of my sons while I play traffic cop as my other son rides his bike up and down the driveway. There’s no gym membership required, but just being outside means I’m burning more calories than I would be inside on a chair.

Think those outside activities don’t matter much? Take a look at the list of outdoor activities and their calorie-burning power compiled by Everyday Health’s Jen Laskey:

  • Frisbee: 100 calories
  • Jumping on a trampoline: 100 calories
  • Dancing: 115 to 150 calories or more
  • Snorkeling: 120 calories
  • Horseback riding: 150 calories
  • Gardening: 160 calories
  • Kayaking: 150 calories
  • Swimming: 180 calories
  • Playing tennis: 250 calories
  • Rollerblading: 250 calories
  • Beach volleyball: 280 calories
  • Biking around town: 250 calories or more
  • Jumping rope: 360 calories

*All calorie counts are approximate and are based on a 150-pound person engaging in the activity at moderate intensity for 30 minutes.

The Beyond the Tent blog adds more useful calorie-burning outside activities:

  • Rowing: 250 calories per hour
  • Hiking & Backpacking: 500 calories per hour.
  • Walking: 200 calories per hour.
  • Playing with children: 200 calories per hour.

Those outside activities add up quickly. According to the blog at Eureka Tents, there’s an added bonus to exercising outside:

…People who walked outside walked faster, perceived less exertion, and had more positive feelings than people who walked on a treadmill.

Want an interesting activity that will keep your family engaged while exercising? Try Geocaching! Annette, a mom, reported on the Geocaching Junkie blog that “Every time we mention geocaching, as opposed to just going for a walk, [the kids] are out of the door like a shot! Now they do enjoy the outdoors, but geocaching adds an extra motivation to get out there.”

By the way, if you think you need to spend hours outside to see results, findings show that just 30 minutes of light exercise could improve your health:


Challenge yourself and your family to spend just a half hour of your day outside. My guess is that you’ll all be happier and healthier for it!

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

D – Digital Detox

beach father and son

Out of curiosity, I searched for the word “detox” in Pinterest this morning. I can’t tell you how many results I found—too many to count. I even found a board dedicated to detoxes that includes an astounding 1,137 pins!

What’s the lesson to be learned here? No, the lesson I’m going for has nothing to do with lemon juice or kale. What I drew from this quick search was a clear sense that people see the world we live in as TOXIC.

A toxin is usually defined as something poisonous, something we’d want to stay far away from. Somehow, though, we humans acknowledge that many things around us are toxic, yet we don’t stay away from those things. In many cases, we embrace those toxins. At some point, though, we go searching for a recipe to detox our bodies, to rid us of the effects of those poisons.

I’d like to offer up my own recipe for detoxing today:

  1. Turn off TV, cell phones, video games, and any other digital devices.
  2. Go outside.

Obviously, I’m focused on our overreliance on digital devices as the “poison” in our lives today. Like many other toxins, even while we bemoan the impact of these devices on our relationships and family lives, we can’t help responding to one more text and watching one more movie. I’m guilty of it, too. I took my phone out to take a quick picture and then just had to respond to a bunch of email messages, too, taking my attention away from my kids.

What effect does digital media have on kids?

In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation released an often-cited report claiming children between 8 and 18 spent 7 hours and 38 minutes a day focused on digital media. Much research has focused on what the impact of that large amount of digital interaction has been. While there are some positives (access to information, entertainment and communication), findings have included many negatives:

  • obesity
  • depression
  • ADHD
  • violence
  • self-esteem issues

While I’m not suggesting you remove all digital devices from your children’s lives, an afternoon outside or a weekend camping trip could be a great opportunity for a digital detox. It’s a good time to talk, reconnect, and remember what life was like before we become addicted to technology.

If you’re not quite ready to entirely unplug, the National Wildlife Federation has put together this presentation with ideas for incorporating digital media in your outdoor adventures—sort of a best of all worlds situation:

What’s your favorite way of digital detoxing? 

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

C – CHEAP Outside Activities

boy playing in fountain

Adapted from fountain-389423_1920_memyselfaneye @ Pixabay.com

I took my family to see a movie this past weekend. Here’s the damage:
2 Children’s Tickets x $7.50 each = $15
2 Adult Tickets x $8.50 each = $17
Popcorn & Soda = $15
Almost $50 for an hour and a half’s entertainment

Last month, we took the kids to see a Disney on Ice show—their first ever. I thought I got a great deal when I paid only $75 for four tickets. Of course, parking cost another $8. Once we got in the arena, we discovered that to get snacks, we’d have to buy a souvenir, too. You see, if you bought cotton candy, it came with a plastic crown. Drinks came in special collector’s cups. In short, we got just two snacks and spent $24. In case you’re not keeping track, that brings the total to just shy of $110.

My point isn’t to complain about costs here. Each of these experiences was worthwhile, and we budget well for such outings. However, entertainment is expensive!

On the contrary, outside activities are inexpensive—and often free. If you find yourself in need of inspiration to get your family outside today, check out the list below.

Cheap outside activities

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside


B – Break from Daily Life

swing reasons to take your family outside break from daily life

Adapted from swint-set-667949_1920_ctvgs @ Pixabay.com

I’m a mom. As such, my normal daily schedule looks a bit like this:

daily schedule

I know many others have schedules that are far crazier than mine, but it’s clear that we have a lot to keep us occupied during the day. Activity-packed days turn into weeks, which turn into months, and suddenly we feel like our days are repeating themselves—Groundhog Day style. We don’t get enough sleep. We don’t eat as well as we should. We cut corners where we can to make everything fit into the schedule. By the time the weekend rolls around, we’re exhausted—and for good reason! We look forward to vacations to “catch-up,” but how many times have you found yourself saying, “I need a vacation from my vacation” when you return?

Let’s face it: We need a break. Our families need a break.

But how do we find time for a break—a really refreshing break?

What most of us forget is that we have a great way to take a break right in front of us: The great outdoors!

Having trouble sleeping?

Current Biology did a study (reported by Fox News) that camping can result in a break from the unnatural circadian rhythms caused by modern life. According to Kenneth Wright, who led the study, “By increasing our exposure to sunlight and reducing our exposure to electrical lighting at night, we can turn our internal clock and sleep times back and likely make it easier to awaken and be alert in the morning.” It took less than a week of camping for study participants to feel less groggy in the morning. Even if a camping trip isn’t in your future, spending more time outside during the day and reducing exposure to artificial light in the evenings can produce results. Starting your day with a walk outside can jumpstart your circadian rhythm.

Feeling stressed?

Just being outside can act as a stress break. In a Landscape and Urban Planning study reported in Prevention, scientists measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in 25 healthy adults in Scotland and discovered that participants living where green space was in abundance had lower cortisol levels and fewer complaints of stress. If you think this means you have to move to the country, there’s good news. Environmental Science & Technology reported that people showed improved mood and self-esteem after only five minutes of light exercise outdoors.

Life’s routines and never-ending to-do list too much for you?

When things feel hectic at home, I find myself yearning for the routine break of a camping trip. Yes, we still have to set-up the campsite, make food, etc. However, doing these things away from home is a nice change of routine. When we’re camping, I’m not thinking about the laundry that needs to get washed, the bills that need to be paid, or the vet appointment I need to make for the dog. I talk with my family around the campfire, go for walks in the woods, and play games at the picnic table. For that brief time, I relax.


Next time things feel hectic and you notice you’re not sleeping well, stressed, or overwhelmed with life, take my advice and get outside. No, time spent outside won’t get those bills paid, but my guess is that you’ll return to those tasks with more focus and a renewed spirit.

How do you take a break from daily life?

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

A – Adaptability

rain 26 reasons to take your family outside adaptability

Adapted from rain-455120_1920_ChristopherPluta @ Pixabay.com

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you:

  • You realize at hour four of a six hour drive to your campsite that you’ve left all of the drinks in the refrigerator at home.
  • The sunny afternoon walk with your kids is ruined when biting flies descend in swarms.
  • The trip to the playground comes to a screeching halt when one of your kids falls off the monkey bars and ends up with a bloody nose.
  • Your geocaching adventure turns hostile when you can’t find a single cache.

Unless you’ve had unbelievably good luck, these scenarios are ones you can relate to—and you’ve probably got some outdoor disaster stories that rival the ones on the list (which all happened to my family, by the way). As much as I love the outdoors, it’s unpredictable. However, it’s that unpredictability that can teach an important lesson about ADAPTABILITY.

According to the video produced by Character Trades, “ADAPTABILITY is eagerly embracing a change in plans without complaint. The opposite of ADAPTABILITY is INFLEXIBILITY, holding tightly to something that prevents me from embracing an alternative.”

Okay, but how important is it that our kids learn to be adaptable? After all, we spend most of their young lives teaching them routine, with rules, curfews, and boundaries firmly in place. Why should they need to be adaptable? Here are just two answers to that question:

  • In an article titled “How to Demonstrate Adaptability on the Job,” Neil Kokemuller highlights four traits of adaptable people that make them suitable for the 21st century workplace:
    • Adaptable people are able to come up with alternative solutions to problems.
    • Adaptable people accept surprises more easily, making the working environment more productive.
    • Adaptable people easily accept new roles, important in rapidly changing workplaces.
    • Adaptable people show calm and confidence, which helps them make quick decisions.
  • In a Journal of Educational Psychology study of 969 Australian high school students, researchers found that “Young people who are more adaptable were more likely to participate in class, enjoy school, be more satisfied with life, have higher self-esteem, and have a more concrete sense of meaning and purpose in life.”

I acknowledge that some kids are just less flexible than others. Some children will balk at the idea of change in any form (and many adults feel the same way, hopefully without the screaming tantrums). It’s true that a child’s personality definitely plays a role, but outside adventures are a great way to teach the benefits of adaptability.

Here are five tips to encourage ADAPTABILITY in kids in an outdoor setting:

  1. Discuss adaptability in nature: The natural world is filled with examples of adaptability. Just as chameleons change color when threatened and trees grow deeper roots when water tables are low, the natural world shows us many ways to change, adapt, learn, and grow. The process is rarely a fast one, but nature has much to teach us.
  2. Model adaptability: I wrote a post about unrealistic expectations recently. In the process, it occurred to me that by reacting badly when my plans for our family’s outdoor adventures went awry, I was teaching my sons to follow suit. Rather than modeling adaptability, I was showing resistance and inflexibility. As parents, caregivers, and role models, it is our place to teach kids to accept change—not to fight against it.
  3. Acknowledge emotions associated with change: For many, change is frightening. We’re more likely to put up with the miserable we know than try something new. Outdoors settings represent an added component to these emotions, heightening fears of failure or worry about “doing it wrong.” However, these outdoor experiences also allow for more flexibility without dire consequences (yes, there are exceptions; I’ll save those for another post on another day): Can’t go on a picnic because it’s raining? Plan a puddle-jumping contest instead. Blow a bike tire in the middle of the family ride? Have a contest while walking back to see who can identify the most birds flying overhead.
  4. Think about opportunities afforded by unexpected changes: The idea of a “Plan B” is really a cliche since we discuss it so often, but having a Plan B, an alternative activity, in mind can keep problems in perspective. If something goes wrong, what could you do instead? Often the alternative ends up being as good—if not better—than the original plan.
  5. Praise flexibility. If we want to emphasize good behavior—in ourselves or in our children—a quick word of praise goes a long way. “Nice job rolling with the changes!” I’ve said to my sons—or “I’m so glad you decided to try out this trail instead of the one we’d intended.”

A confession: I’m not great at this idea of adaptability. In scenario A at the beginning of this post, the one with all the drinks left at home (for a week-long trip no less!), I fumed in the truck after the discovery. Admittedly, this was a minor issue that was easily remedied with a stop at a convenience store. My sons actually loved the fact they got to choose their own drinks, making that part of the trip better for them than what I’d planned. It was their flexibility that I leveraged later in the trip when it was too cold to do a planned activity and they were upset. “Remember how getting to pick your own drinks was better than what we’d planned?” I asked them. “Let’s think of something else we could do that would make today better.”

The natural world is a great model of adaptability and an excellent teacher, too—if we let it.

What outdoor activity disasters have happened to you and your family? Were you able to be adaptable and save the day?

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

Useful Advice for AtoZ Challenge


If you’re doing the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April, I encourage you to read this excellent post at Tasha’s Thinking:

3 Top Tips for the AtoZChallenge 

A challenge veteran, Tasha offers suggestions for newbies and returnees to the challenge alike. The comments section of the post provided even more useful tips.

Speaking of tips, if you aren’t already reading the Blogging from A to Z Challenge blog, you should be! I picked up tips there this week for finding images, creating a signature for my comments, and keeping organized when responding to posts during the challenge.

I can’t wait until April! Are you ready for the challenge? Have you found any other A-Z Challenge tips you’ve found useful? I can use all the help I can get!


A-Z Theme Reveal: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

leaves jumping 26 reasons to take your family outside

Scottish-American Naturalist John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Not surprisingly, Muir is one of the people most responsible for the National Park System we have in the US today. He gave up a career in industry to wander his way from Indiana to Florida in 1867, sketching the flora and fauna along the way. Eventually, he made his way to California and surrendered himself to the lure of the natural world. PBS writes that Muir “felt a spiritual connection to nature; he believed that mankind is just one part of an interconnected natural world, not its master, and that God is revealed through nature.”

Muir understood the power of nature in a way that many 21st century people do not. Perhaps that was because he didn’t have the distractions of today, the phones, TVs, video games, and a thousand other things. In 2005, Robert Louv published a book called Last Child in the Woods, in which he coined the term “nature deficit disorder” and argued many behavior problems children were experiencing were related to the fact they no longer went outside.

The good news is that things are changing. The Outdoor Foundation released a report in 2013 that said 49.2% of Americans participated in some sort of outdoor recreation, and the National Park System reported record-breaking attendance in 2015.

Why do we need to get outside?

With so many things packed into our daily schedules, it’s not easy to find time to take a walk or play ball in the backyard. I’m guilty of going into hibernation mode as soon as the temperatures fall below 50. Can it really matter that much if we don’t get outside?

The simple answer is YES, it matters a great deal. The benefits for spending time outdoors—even just five minutes—have been well researched. Rather than get into them today, though, I’ve decided to make it my 2016 A-Z Challenge theme to give you 26 Reasons To Take Your Family Outside. Some of the reasons are lighthearted, but many are quite serious. My hope is that at least one of the reasons will you stick in your mind, and when you feel like you just want to relax on the couch and watch a movie, you’ll get up and head outside instead.

To get you started on your own outdoor adventure (and because it fits so well with the A-Z blogging challenge), I encourage you to take up the National Wildlife Federation’s “26 Ideas From A-Z” outdoor activity challenge with your family.

I hope you’ll check back for the 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside, beginning April 1, 2016! 

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