Adventure is out there! No matter where you’re starting from, each outdoor adventure with your children helps build your confidence as a mom and an adventuer. If you’re ready to take your adventures to the next level, we’re ready to help! Today, Kansas City mom of three, Amy Eastin is here sharing her experience and tips on leveling up your adventures. What started with stroller walks with premature twins has blossomed into thrilling expeditions across the Midwest, as Amy and her children conquer new heights, take on new challenges, and adventure together. Amy shares her tips, insights and experiences on leveling up outdoor adventures with kids, proving that the boundless wonders of nature are not just for the brave, but for families to embrace and enjoy.

How to Level Up Adventures with Kids

Leveling up your outdoor adventures with kids

Going on adventures with kids can seem like a daunting task. There’s a lot to research about where you’re going and what to expect when you get there. There’s all the prep work and packing and planning that has to be done. And then once you start to think about all the negative outcomes and “what ifs,” it might feel totally overwhelming and not worth it. But like most things in life, getting outside and adventuring with kids gets easier with practice. Not just for you, but for your kids, too.

If you make the effort to get outdoors, I believe you will be rewarded with happier and healthier kids (with an added bonus of a mental health boost for you all). You’ll feel better at the end of the day – physically and mentally. You’ll feel more connected to your kids and already looking forward to the next adventure. At least, that’s what happened to us. In this post, I’m sharing my personal journey of getting outside with my kids, how each adventure led us to bigger and better adventures, as well as tips for how you can do it too. 

little girl backpacking

How I got started with adventuring

I have 6-year-old twin girls and a 3-year-old son. Some of our favorite things to do are backpacking, bikepacking, floating, hiking, caving, and more. But believe it or not, I was not outdoorsy before having children. I learned how to do all of these activities for the very first time, with three little kids in tow!

Before children, I backpacked through Southeast Asia and India. I taught English in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria. Outdoor adventures happened, but they were merely part of my travel experience. I wasn’t traveling to have outdoor adventures. And while I considered myself adventurous, I would not call myself “outdoorsy.” 

Once I settled down and got married, I continued traveling. Each year, we saved and splurged on a 2-week trip somewhere around the globe. We went on an African safari, saw Machu Picchu, and backpacked through Europe. I looked forward to these trips all year and valued them as an important component to my happiness. 

However, when I gave birth to 27-week-old twins, my world was turned upside down. Their medical care was all-consuming and the medical bills for twins in the NICU for 100 days slammed us. Almost all of my income from my job went to medical care and then daycare. It left very little for travel, which we didn’t feel comfortable doing with premie twins. Eventually, I left my job to stay home and help my twins with their health needs. 

I felt trapped. I loved my kids and being their mom, but staying in the house all day was making me feel restless and dissatisfied. Traveling had always been such a big part of my life. I was feeling so stir-crazy and overwhelmed with the need to get out there and have some adventures. That’s when I started researching local adventures that we could do as a family. I began to wonder if maybe getting outside, close to us, could fill that need to get out into the world and explore. 

Nelson Atkins Lawn with kids running around

How we started adventuring outside together

As you can imagine (and maybe even know from experience), getting outdoors with twin infants is challenging. I had to stick to paved trails where I could push a double stroller. Our outings were wedged between nap times and feedings. My plans were often foiled by weather, sick babies, feeding schedules, doctor’s appointments, or sheer exhaustion on my part. It was not easy. 

However, I started to notice that the more we got out of the house, the easier it became. With each outing, my confidence grew and I felt more comfortable on our adventures. Knowing what to pack got easier and the twins became used to our schedule of leaving the house daily. I made sure our van was always stocked with diapers, wipes, and other items I would need when we were away from home. I worried less about whether we forgot an item I “needed” and became more flexible. It took practice, but each outing got easier. 

When we first started exploring, we mostly headed to paved trails where I could push the stroller. Eventually, when the twins began to walk, we moved our adventures to parks and playgrounds. This may not seem like much, but at the time, I felt like this was a huge accomplishment! 

kid biking at Coler Mountain Bike Preserve

Getting through the pandemic

And then the world shut down. When the pandemic started, I was about 22 weeks pregnant with my son, and the twins were around 2 years old. Because they were born so early, my twins had been hospitalized multiple times due to respiratory illnesses. We were very afraid of how COVID-19 would impact them and my unborn son, so we took sheltering in place seriously. It didn’t take long before I became restless and depressed. 

Once my son was born, we began getting outside again. Surprisingly, I thought it was easier to get outdoors with 2.5 year-old twins and an infant than twin babies. Now, my twins could walk, and I could babywear my son on our outings. This opened doors to new adventures for us, now that we didn’t have to stick to paved trails. 

With indoor activities no longer being an option for our family (and we certainly didn’t want to sit around at home), we were forced to get out and embrace all the seasons and weather. Our outdoor adventures were born out of a strong desire to explore and a lack of other options.  

camping with kids at Johnson Shut Ins

The adventure that changed everything

Slowly, as my kids grew, our adventures did too. When my son was 11 months old, and my twins were three, we went on an epic road trip through northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. We camped for the second time (the first time was a practice run a few weeks prior), canoeing for the first time (we went in circles a lot), and hiked as many trails as we could. 

At the end of the trip, we had an outfitter take us to a remote island to camp. He packed our pack and play, massive tent, and all our filtered water in his speed boat and canoe. We spent two days and two nights exploring the island, paddling around, and enjoying solitude. It was glorious. 

To this day, my husband and I agree that this was the best trip we have taken with our kids. I spent months planning this trip and coaching my twins on what we would do. I was very anxious it would be terrible, but actually it was empowering. Our kids were so happy. We were all proud of ourselves.

This trip made me realize just how much we could do with our kids! It opened up all kinds of possibilities for our outings. I couldn’t wait for the next adventure. 

kids running outside at Voyageurs National Park

Leveling up our adventures

I think of trying new things on outdoor adventures as “leveling up.” Each time we mastered an activity such as going to the playground or hiking an extra half-mile, we beat a level. My confidence in myself (as both a parent and as an adventurer) grew with each level and outing. My faith in my kids grew, once I saw how they could adapt and handle our adventures.

With each new level accomplished, I would think about what it would make sense for the next level to be and begin working on that. And believe me, it takes a bit of work, planning and preparation before I was ready to tackle each new level. 

For example, with canoeing, I read lots of books about canoeing to my twins. We sat on the floor and pretended to be still so that we wouldn’t tip the boat. I read lots of online tips for canoeing with kids. I chatted with friends (both online and in real life) who had experience canoeing with kids. When we first got in the canoe, I let them lean from side to side so they could feel how it would rock the boat. I gave them snacks to keep them entertained (and still) while we paddled.

It was a process of learning for me and for the kids. Together, we worked our way up to the adventure so that we could try something new together in a safe and manageable way. 

kids in a canoe at finger lakes

Finding adventure friends

It’s daunting when you’re just getting started taking kids on adventures. But, with every adventure, confidence is gained, and boundaries widen a little further. Adventures start small and build as you gain experience in your outings, confidence in your abilities, and curiosity in what else you can accomplish! Having adventure friends (other moms who inspire you to get outside, or friends who join you on adventures) is something that really empowered me to level up my adventures. 

One of the best things that I did to get us outdoors was to start a forest group that met weekly in parks around our area. Originally, I started this because I thought it would be a great way for my kids to play with friends in a setting I felt was safer than indoor scenarios due to COVID-19. However, I quickly realized it was actually transformative in a lot of ways. 

For starters, I made a lot of friends and good relationships. It was so great to be able to find and connect with other moms who valued outdoor time with their children. A lot of us had similar parenting philosophies and similarly aged children, which made it easy to bond. I did not realize how important this would be for my mental health, but it definitely helped pull me from a Covid funk. 

Learning from experience and others

I learned a lot from the other moms and children. It was interesting to see how they handled situations, what they packed, what their strategies were for calming their kids down, and how they corralled them out of the woods. I grew so much from just observing them and even more from talking to them about their outdoor goals and resources. 

Spending planned time outdoors each week also helped my kids gain confidence outside. They started climbing higher, were more sure-footed, and became more comfortable exploring. They got used to hiking and got stronger physically.

I became more confident in my ability to explore the outdoors with them by myself. We learned that I always need snacks, if they go near water they will definitely get wet, and that we would stop often to look at bugs and plants. 

kids walking into a cave

Where we’re at now

It’s wild to look back at how far we have come on our outdoor adventures in only three years. Three years ago, I struggled to get out the door, and last year, I took my twins on our first-ever solo backpacking trip. Talk about leveling up! I was so proud of myself for doing this, and my kids were so excited to be included on this adventure. They were proud of themselves, too. I did a ton of research on what to pack, which backpacks to use, how much the kids could carry, and things like water purification. There was a lot to learn and I was nervous to try it, but I started with a short hike that I knew we could do and a beautiful spot with 360-degree views, which made all the work feel worth it. 

Recently, I also took my son on our first-ever bikepacking trip. Again, I planned something easy, only biking 5 miles each way. I researched where to go and what to bring. This time, I invited a friend to come along, which made the adventure so much more enjoyable for all of us. At the end of the trip, I was surprised by how much fun my son and I had.  I’m hoping to go on another backpacking and bikepacking trip this year with the whole family. 

This journey of ours took time and lots of practice. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. Each outing (no matter how small or insignificant it feels) builds your outdoor adventure confidence and skills. Each level is important and helps you get to the next one. 

tent and bike from a bikepacking trip with kids

Tips for getting started adventuring with kids

If getting outside and adventuring with your kids is something that you’d like to do, we’re here to help! Getting outside with kids can be overwhelming, but it’s always worth it. Getting started is the hardest part! Here are my tips to get started adventuring with kids: 

  • Sign up for Adventure Up– an online community of adventure moms looking to level up their adventures, create friendships, and learn from one another.
  • Start small; even playgrounds can be big adventures.
  • Set a goal, break it down step-by-step, and work toward reaching it. If you want to hike 3 miles with your 5-year-old, slowly (maybe with a 1/2 mile hike) and work your way toward that. Give yourself time and grace to reach your goals. 
  • Build a community of other parents and kids. Getting outdoors is always more fun with friends! 
  • Keep your car stocked with snacks and supplies so you can get out the door faster.
  • Create a packing list for the items you can’t keep in your car so you don’t forget something. Hang it on the fridge or somewhere easily accessible. 
  • Make a list of places you’d like to go and things you’d like to do. 
  • Get your partner involved and onboard. My husband can’t go on a lot of our weekly adventures, but he helps us pack the car, which is a huge and helpful job.
  • Make plans. If you set a time or date to do something, you’re more likely to go. Include friends, which will make you even more accountable.

little kid walking at a campground

Tips for leveling up your outdoor adventures

If you’re already getting outside and adventuring with kids, good for you! And if you’re anything like me (and most of the moms here at Run Wild My Child), you’re looking forward to the next adventure! Here’s to making it bigger and better! If you’re looking to level up, here are tips on how to grow your adventures: 

  • Set a big, but attainable goal. Break it down into smaller milestones, and then make those happen. One thing at a time. 
  • Do your research: read books, listen to podcasts, take a class, ask questions. Make sure you’re prepared to do everything properly to keep your family safe. 
  • Know your limits. One of the hardest things is knowing when to turn around or stop something to stay safe. Trust your gut. 
  • Get the kids excited. Involve them in the planning process so they’re invested and can help and look forward to the adventure. 
  • Do things even if you’re nervous. I am always nervous before adventures; that’s how I know what we’re doing is worth it. 
  • Find a friend. Everything’s better with friends! It’s usually less work for you and easier, too! 

coffee and a dock on a camping trip on a remote island

My adventure goals for the future

Our adventures may have started with playgrounds, but I’m excited to see where they will go. Our short backpacking trip was just a stepping stone toward my goal of walking the Santiago De Compostela with my kids when they are teenagers. The bikepacking trip is a piece of my goal to bike the 230+ mile Katy Trail across Missouri. Our stay on a remote island was a step towards helping us prepare for someday canoeing the Boundary Waters. 

I don’t know if we will accomplish all of those goals, but I know our family will embark on some epic adventures. Each little adventure leads to a newer and bigger adventure. When my kids get older, our adventures will inevitably change. Our travels and adventures will be shaped around their interests, passions, and schedules. Maybe we will do fewer outdoor adventures (or maybe we’ll do even more!). But, no matter what happens, I will be glad we created memories together and built strong family bonds through challenging ourselves and exploring together. 

To learn more about our adventures, check out 11 Most Beautiful State and National Parks in the Midwest and Kansas Hidden Gems


What’s your family’s next adventure level? 

About the author 

Amy is a Kansas City-based adventure mom to three kids. She loves exploring all that the middle of the USA has to offer, from hiking trails to family experiences, rivers, museums, and everything in between. Before kids, Amy traveled and lived around the world, rode camels, trekked through mountains, and occasionally danced with the locals. Now, Amy is usually road-tripping with her kids (and sometimes her husband), getting outside, and exploring Kansas City. Amy is passionate about promoting the Midwest as a travel destination and encouraging families to get outdoors with young kids.

You can find more from Amy in the following locations: 
Instagram: @everydayoutdoorfamily
Facebook: Everyday Outdoor Family
Tiktok: @everydayoutdoorfamily
RWMC posts: Amy Eastin