Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Outdoor Education – what can you do as a parent/student – Part 2 of 2

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Following on from my post a week ago (go here), this is the upside of the things you can do for your children (or if you’re a student – for yourself) that are simple and easy and frankly, you and I probably did when we were kids.

  • Make your kids to chores. It seems fundamental but these days, most homes have dishwashers, so many families have a cleaner come in once a week / fortnight (you know that time when you ask the kids to clean up the mess in their rooms because the cleaner is coming the next day), where we outsource dog walking, gardening, car cleaning and so on. Research has shown that chores foster interpersonal skills, improve mental health, create empathy and build on responsibility. More importantly, doing chores develops gratitude in children.

    My kids doing the camping dishes
  • Demonstrate and practice with your children how to peel and chop everyday vegetables. I’m not talking about kale or squash – more onions, potatoes, carrots, capsicums and so on. When a student cuts a carrot 1cm thick and is then disappointed when it’s still crunchy after a stir fry, you’ll be able to help them think ahead.
  • Let your children know that everyday chores (like cooking for some of us) are laborious, monotonous and boring. Be prepared to work against the self-concerned nature of children and work on developing a sense of social justice within them.
  • Have your children do the dishes. I remember taking my kids away when they were 3, 5 and 7 and realised they didn’t know how to wash or dry dishes because we had a dishwasher. Here started the lesson and by the end of two weeks they were experts. In particular, focus on hygiene and as always – try to make it fun.
  • Let your children pack their own gear. Take the list provided by the school, the scout group, the church group and have them lay all of it out on their bed. Then they can tick it off as they put it into their bag. Support and help them but don’t pack it for them as once they are in the field they’ll have to do it themselves anyway and they’ll be one step ahead of the pack.
  • You may not agree with everything on the gear list but stick to the list. Items such as sunblock, broad-brimmed hat, gloves, no cotton clothes, wide-mouthed water bottle and so on have been put there for a reason. People like myself have been in the industry a long time and we know what works best and what doesn’t. By all means query the list with the staff member involved, otherwise – stick to the list!
  • Don’t impart your anxiety or fears onto your children. You may not like camping or carrying a pack, but don’t underestimate your child. Ask open questions like ‘what was the food like?’, ‘did you sleep well?’, ‘did you make any new friends?’ instead of ‘it must’ve been terrible walking in the cold weather!’ OR ‘sleeping on the ground is dreadful isn’t it?’ OR my favourite ‘it must have been hard to walk with that heavy pack!’ No presuppositions. Only queries please.
  • Don’t be a helicopter parent. Let them make mistakes. Forget things. Lose things. Be mean. Be kind. Be helpful. Be rude. Get anxious. Get scared. Find their feet. As a parent – we can be so busy giving our kids everything we didn’t have, we forget to give them everything we did have. (see this post). If you think you’re a helicopter parent then you probably not looked upon fondly by staff due to your high needs and expectations, often over inflated value on things that are considered ordinary and most of which you project is about yourself not your child. B
    Mum showing how to chop veggies

    it tough? Yep but it’s something we deal with everyday.

  • So they forgot their lunch and water bottle for the first day of camp. Don’t chase the bus down and give it to them. Let them problem solve it. They won’t starve or dehydrate. That’s part of the learning. If you continually ‘rescue’ them then that’s what they’ll expect for the rest of their lives.
  • Don’t underestimate the awesomeness within your child/ren. I wish I could make an individual video for every parent and show them how their child consistently rises to the challenge. Most of the time, they put up their tent with their mates. They prepare a meal with others. They help out those they can see struggling. Or they ask for help if they need it. They ask good questions of staff. When we as parents step back and let our children be children you’d be surprised how amazing they are. Give them that chance.
  • Allow them to receive feedback and that there might have negative consequences for their actions. This instills in them the concept of mutual respect and the rights and interests of others. It sits uncomfortable as a parent but it’s essential to their growth.
  • Their outdoor education experience is their experience, not yours. Don’t presume or preempt what may or may not have happened.
  • Do expect that your child will come home tired, hungry and smelly. Don’t mention it. That’s part of being on program. Ask them before they go on their trip what they’d like for dinner when they return – favourites I know of are: roast, sushi, lasagna, Thai food, pizza or fruit salad.
  • Don’t be surprised by the lack of dirty clothes. When you’re living outdoors you tend to wear the same things over and over again (particularly boys – I have a son!). For a five-day program you only see a couple of pairs of underwear and one t-shirt – don’t worry. They were doing exactly what they should have – lived in the moment and disregarded fashion.
  • It’s not your experience – it’s theirs. Let their stories unfold when they return. They may not bubble out of them straight away or you may not be able to shut them up. Allow their stories be their stories. Quiz them. Challenge them. Encourage them. Look to the growth within the time they’ve spent away rather than the negative.
  • My final tip is – do not let them take any technology on a program. This is the one chance to disconnect from the WWW and reconnect with themselves and others around them. Anyway, the network is often available anyway and they’ll run out of charge within 24 hours. These days we are all so used to being able to speak to our kids, look up what the weather is doing next week, find out footy scores, Google anything – but I beg you to give your child the space to just ‘be’. Allow them to soak up their environment without the distractions from technology and you. As a parent, I know this can be hard but believe me, it’s worth it for them and for you.

Now it’s your turn. How have you found your experiences send your children off on camp? How have they coped? What advice would you offer other parents. Please leave a comment below.

Explore & Inspire, Markets, Op Shops, Secondhand

Doncare Op Shop – Templestowe Village

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This is a quaint little shop but does extend back further than the front my appear. It has some little gems inside but you’ll need to hunt for them. There was a book stall out the front and my daughter picked up a great novel for just $1 which is what I believe all books should be priced at – either 50c or $1 because there are so many of them in Op Shops and if they get too many they have to pay to have them sent to the tip.

There is a good selection of glassware and unusual coloured glass as well as jewellery, books, cd’s, dvd’s, craft items and more.

Take the time to explore and rustle through to snap up yourself a bargain.


Explore & Inspire, Travel Tips & Ideas

Kids Travelling vs Staying in School: Part 2

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Meeting the locals

As a parent, you do need to consider if it’s a good thing for your child to be out of school for an extended period of time. Not all kids are resilient and capable of stepping from home-school-holiday-home-school. You may need to keep in touch with class teachers as to their progress and mental health if not around a routine or their friends. But ultimately, the decision is yours as a parent. Do take into account those years that are important such as approaching the final years of secondary or transitioning from primary to secondary school. (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Markets, Op Shops, Secondhand

Red Cross Op Shop – Carnegie

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It  seems that the Red Cross have found a formula that works in their Op Shops. This one in Carnegie is laid out similar to the one in Croydon in that it has beautiful stock in excellent condition, the displays are well thought out and the arrangement in the store are intuitive.

Plus when you add to this the gorgeous staff who are so helpful and dedicated this is a shop you definitely want to visit and explore. Clothes are racked up nicely and the prices are reasonable.

The theme on the day I visited was still a little of the leftovers of Spring Racing Carnival but it was so fresh and inviting that it tantalised me to explore more into the store.

I do like it when stores make an effort to be seasonal but to also challenge the seasons is a bold move and frankly – I Love It.

Explore & Inspire, Markets, Op Shops, Secondhand

Salvo Op Shop – Carnegie

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Okay, I said I wouldn’t review one of these Op Shop chain stores but this one took my fancy because of the layout and the staff.

With one of the best locations in Carnegie on the corner of Koornang and Neerim Road, this store is well organised and the quality of clothes are excellent. Unfortunately for someone like me as a size 14 struggled to find much in my size as the clothes are mostly donated by those much smaller than me. But there were still bargains to be had if you if you take the time.

Note that there are alot of clothes in this store. There are a quite a few books but little kids toys, kitchenware and linen. But it still has alot to offer and I’m sure this is a seasonal and changes over time. (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Outdoor Education – what can you do as a parent/student – Part 1 of 2

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Pancakes for breakfast (13 yo)

I’ve worked in the Outdoor Education field since 1989 and there have been many changes over that time. As an entity, our management of risk has improved tremendously, our programs are journey based and often sequential giving a sense of change and resetting the daily expectations, the quality of food and recipes are broad and nutritional, the equipment is well maintained and turned over within good time frames, the staff are better trained and equipped to deal with different groups and emergencies, venues are scoped to achieve outcomes for programs and so much more.

However, there have been many changes since 1989 and they are worth reading through as you may find some parallels with your own children / yourself. The Part 2 (go here) of this article will give you the practical tips and guidance to work through some of these issues.

  • Most students don’t know how to cut vegetables, particularly hard ones like carrots. Given a capsicum, a student will often look at me quizzically and say either ‘what is this’ or ‘how do I chop this?’
  • Most students don’t know how to cook. Asked to bring rice on a program for a group of three, I’ve seen numerous times a student pull out a 500gm bag on a self-cater program not knowing that this would feed an entire group + other campers nearby. This is despite encouragement to practice at home prior to the trip to work out quantities.
  • On a five day program, students would prefer to bring 8 Up & Go’s for breakfast than muesli, weetbix or other cereal and mix up powdered milk. Their reason? Too hard. If they are self-catering encourage them to bring healthy whole food.
  • With restrictions on perishable food being taken on camp – many parents are supplying their kids with expensive dehydrated dinners. This is missing the point. It’s about the process not the end result. Plus, they’ll receive a constipated child at the end of the week as these dinners are fine as a one off but not on a regular basis.
  • Two minute noodles do not count as a meal. I regard them as a nice snack while preparing dinner but not to replace a dinner. There is no calorific value in them and believe me, kids need all the nutritional value they can on an outdoor education program.
  • No lollies. No energy drinks. No processed snack foods. Stick to whole foods. They’ll offer more dietary value and get them through the program with my energy and less cravings.
  • Young people need to understand that it’s imperative they practice good hygiene techniques while camping. Gelsan isn’t enough. Soap, water and more soap, then more water. It’s all provided so use it.
  • Students in the 90’s would carry 15kgs packs, walk for five days, averaging 15 – 20kms a day. Today they’d be lucky to carry 12kgs (many students needing a pack shuttle), they’d rarely walk for three days and it would be unheard of a student walking 15kms – more like 10 – 12 kms.
  • There were no mobile phones in 1989 and in fact in 1992 on my BMLCC (Bushwalking & Mountaincraft Leadership Course – the only qualification around at the time for bushwalking leaders), someone brought a large brick style phone along to ‘test it out’. We were all horrified that a phone on our bushwalk would spoil the experience. We were walking to get away from the technology and here it was in our face. Within two years, as a leader if you didn’t take a phone on program you were regarded as negligent! How times change. However, we still encourage no technology in the outdoors. No MP3’s, phones, Nintendos, DS’s, tablets and so on. Not sure how we’ll go with the Apple Watch coming out but we encourage students to disconnect from technology and connect with what’s around them – people and nature.
  • Parents pass on their fears and expectations to their children. They don’t want their child to get cold and wet but that isn’t necessarily the same for your kids. And frankly, they need to be a little uncomfortable, a little stretched and stressed. Yes that word stressed. No one wants their kid to be stretched, least of all me as a parent. But I know that my kids have an awesomeness inside them and it’s only when I allow them to experience the goods with the bads and let them shine through that they appreciate the potential they have.
  • Your experiences camping will no doubt be different to what your child will experience. Let them find their own feet on the trip.
  • How can our kids grow if their world is a bubble of never experience walking with a backpack in strong wind, trying to put a tent up in the rain, putting on a wetsuit in the morning that is cold, sunburnt shoulders because they didn’t put on blockout, the hard slog up a hill with the reward of beautiful views. The world can be tough whether in business or working for yourself. How can we expect our kids to draw on their strengths if they’ve never had to face adversity.
  • Young people lack resilience and yet it’s the one word that is bandied around within educational institutions all the time – ‘help make my child resilient – but don’t let them work hard, do it tough, make them cold or wet or hungry or accountable.’ Grrrr. Effort equals achievement. Read this for more information.
  • Don’t make excuses for them. Here is a  list of the regular excuses I hear from parents: she’d too small to carry a pack, he has growing pains so he can’t carry a pack, she must have a shower during the week otherwise she feels dirty,
  • For those of you that camping is unfamiliar – I urge you to embrace it. I’ve consistently found that the best leaders have come from those who’ve taken onboard outdoor education trips. They are organised, prepared, flexible, can work in a team, take control if required, be a leader as well as a follower, think on their feet, be proactive, play devils advocate, problem solve, think laterally and creatively, mindful and respectful of others, work collaboratively, are often humble, see the greatness in others, sympathetic and much more. That’s not a bad list.
  • If a teacher or leader says your child ‘played up’ – they did. Whatever they ‘would never do that’ – they did. And probably more than once.

Now it’s your turn. How have you found your experiences send your children off on camp? How have they coped? What advice would you offer other parents. Please leave a comment below.

Explore & Inspire, Living Simply, Outdoor Education

We are so busy giving our kids what we didn’t have, we forget to give them what we did have!


As adults, most of us have fond memories from childhood: intently watching ants on the march, building a cubby house, collecting tadpoles from the creek, making mud pies or daisy chains, grabbing the rope swing and swinging out over the river and letting go, exploring the neighbourhood and stopping for a Sunny Boy at the milk bar. Whether we realise it or not, those moments in the outdoors helped shape our view on the world around us. As I speak with parents, we all have fond memories of our childhood being one of freedom and exploration and yet these days, we are reluctant to allow our own children have that same experience. Here some worthwhile reading about the ‘Me Generation‘. (more…)