Books to encourage family adventures outdoors

Ever wanted to be a little more adventurous with your family? To take on the role of intrepid outdoor explorers? To feel inspired to leave the cosy comforts and instantly gratifying screens indoors for the wind in your hair and the sun on your face?

100 Family Adventures by Tim, Kerry, Amy and Ella Meek and Wild Adventures by Mick Manning and Brita Granström might be just the books to encourage you -and crucially your children – to wrap up warm and head for the great outdoors.

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Both books offer up a banquet of ideas for family activities and explorations outdoors ranging from building dens with branches and leaves to sleeping outdoors without a tent, from fishing for your supper to foraging for food from hedgerows, from flying kites to learning to kayak.

The Meek Family have taken a year off from their regular jobs and schools to spend 12 months adventuring around the UK in a camper van (you can follow their journey on their blog). 100 Family Adventures is their first book and draws upon their experience of making a conscious effort to spend more time outdoors as a family. As well as 100 activities, there are jokes, tips and facts contributed by the entire family, including the children.

In Wild Adventures, Mick Manning and Brita Granström also draw upon the outdoor play and activities they enjoy with their four children, and whilst there is some overlap in the projects suggested in the two books, the approach taken in each is quite different.

Making and sleeping in a homemade shelter: 100 Family Adventures
Making and sleeping in a homemade shelter: 100 Family Adventures
Shelters: Wild Adventures
Shelters: Wild Adventures

100 Family Adventures is full of photos of the Meek family and their friends doing the activities suggested, whilst Wild Adventures is richly hand illustrated in pencil and watercolour, giving it a hand-made feel rather than something rather sleek and glossy. Whilst photos are “evidence” that the activities suggested can genuinely be done by children and families, Granström’s illustrations show a different truth; that the great outdoors can be enjoyed by any child, not just white able-bodied children.

Sometimes when I read activity or craft books my reading is aspirational; it’s about daydreaming a life in different circumstances. Sometimes, however, I want something with the messiness that is more familiar from my family life. For me, 100 Family Adventures falls into the former category. The adventures they suggest are all amazing, but quite a lot of them require expensive equipment, relatively long distance travel and some serious planning (for example skiing, sailing, kayaking and even some of the camping adventures they suggest e.g. winter camping). Wild Adventures, on the other hand, is much more “domestic” in scale. Although the projects are designed for engaging with a wilder outdoors than that simply found in your back garden, they are not about extreme adventuring. Having said that, 100 Family Adventures is partly about going out of your comfort zone and extending yourself and your family and so it’s not surprising that some of the ideas require more money, time and preparation.

Tracking and casting animal footprints: 100 Family Adventures
Tracking and casting animal footprints: 100 Family Adventures
Making plaster casts of animal tracks: Wild Adventures
Making plaster casts of animal tracks: Wild Adventures

Whilst Wild Adventures is perhaps the book I would choose for my own family, I really like the physical properties of 100 Family Adventures. It has been produced in a chunky format with a flexi-hardcover, making it easy to bung in a rucksack and take on adventures outdoors. Manning and Granström’s lovely book on the other hand is currently only available in hardback with a dust jacket, making it more suitable for reading indoors.

Having listened with interest to what translator and editor Daniel Hahn had to say recently about the value of opinion alongside fact in a day an age of easily found information, I’ve been thinking a lot in the past few days about my reviews and the balance between fact and opinion. These two books, both from the same publisher, on essentially the same topic have reminded me that different styles of books suit different people and that I should remain aware of this when reviewing books. Something I read may be just the sort of thing my family will love, but I shouldn’t forget that other families may like different things. So whilst Wild Adventures is my book of choice today, do look out both and see which suits you and your family… and then let me know which of the two YOU prefer!

Inspired by Wild Adventures we took to the seaside last month and made faces out of objects we found along the shoreline.

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There really is nothing like having your own family adventure outdoors.

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3 Responses

  1. I have one ‘outdoors child’ (who, even before he could walk, would bang on the front door to signal he wanted to go out) if we were not out by 10am! I am now enjoying having an ‘indoors child’ with whom I can take thing easier (especially as I am older) but I still make sure we get lots of outdoors time. It’s all about balance I think!
    Claire Potter recently posted..Adrenaline junkies in the family? Throw them off a cliff!

  2. Oh we would totally love reading these books, they look just up our street. And how exciting to find a new book from Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom… Not to mention a new blog full of adventures to follow, love it totally!!!
    se7en recently posted..Se7en + 1 Steps to Planting Trees With GreenPop…

  3. […] These books on Playing by the Book look fantastic: Gotta Get Outdoors. […]

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