How to have a family microadventure

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A circle of people toast marshmallows on fire

Toasting marshmallows is the ultimate holiday activity Picture: Shutterstock

I remember it being pretty cold, but I was so hyped up on red frogs and excitement that I hardly noticed. We’d changed the original ‘under the stars’ plan in favour of a tent but had opened all the flaps so we could still peer up at the night sky. They seemed to sparkle more brightly than on the average night, despite the dull glow of the lights from the kitchen. I could see Mum washing the dishes through the window.

A circle of people toast marshmallows on fire

Toasting marshmallows is the ultimate holiday activity Picture: Shutterstock

After months of begging, my parents had finally agreed to let us put up a tent and sleep in the back yard. I would have been about 9, my brothers 7 and 5. Dad pulled the short straw and camped out with us. At the time, the novelty factor of this backyard quest rivalled that of an overseas trip. I still remember it years later.

What would you say if we asked your family this simple question: where would you rather be?

We bet our bottom dollar that your answer is on holiday. Perhaps by the beach, in the bush, trying out exotic foods or ticking off postcard sights in a major city.

Family of four in a tent on back lawn

What's stopping you from camping in your own backyard? Picture: Shutterstock/Air Images

The unfortunate reality of school and work is that we can’t be on holiday for 365 days a year. But there’s no reason you can’t shake up term time with a break from routine. With a ‘microadventure.’

Author and adventurer Alistair Humphreys popularised this word to encourage more people to get outside and explore their local area. He defines a ‘microadventure’ as “an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.”

The idea is that you don’t have to travel far or cough up big bucks to spend quality time together. You don’t have to wait for school holidays or annual leave to escape the daily grind.

Mum and two kids follow fire trail in bush

Take a short bush walk for a taste of the wild in the everyday! Picture: Shutterstock/Mike Fouque

Microadventurers like Humphreys do mountain climbs, wild swimming (swimming in rivers and lakes) and sleep under the stars between the end of one work day and the start of the next. This is probably a bit ambitious with primary-schoolers, so we came up with our own list of kid-friendly microadventures.

We challenge you to one after-school escapade per month. The kids will be so excited to be mixing up the usual afternoon routine (no homework!) that it won’t really matter what you choose to do. You’ll realise just how many hours there are in a day (especially if you start your adventure at 3pm as soon as school’s out) and just how many exciting activities you can fill them with.

Our awesome calendar of kid-friendly microadventures

January – Backyard Camping

Try your own backyard camping trip. You can borrow a tent or buy one cheaply from Kmart. If you pick a clear, mild night, you won’t have to worry about rain. Bring cushions and blankets down from the house and complete the experience by cooking a sausage dinner on the barbie and telling spooky stories.

February – Beach trip

Pack your swimmers in the morning and then jump in the car after school to head to the beach. Bring a picnic, or swing by a fish and chip shop for a yummy dinner treat. Sydneysiders can make it to Manly or the Northern Beaches in an hour. If you live in Melbourne, enjoy St Kilda or Brighton Beach, or if you are in Perth, enjoy Cottesloe at sunset.

March – local bushwalk

In true microadventurer style, seek out little pockets of wilderness near you to escape the city buzz. Make the most of the long sunshine hours while daylight savings lasts. Perth’s Kings Park is full of walks and if you are in Sydney, follow trails in Mt Kuring-gai National Park or Royal National Park. If you’re in Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills is full of national parks including Belair and Cleland.

April – Ride or walk to school

Get to school in a different way to your usual mode of transport. If you typically drive, catch a bus or train. Even more exciting? Ride your bikes.

May – Attractions open late

Night markets, late museum hours and more make for interesting outings after 5pm. Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW hosts Art after Hours until 10pm on Wednesdays. In Darwin, Mindil Beach Sunset Markets run from 4 to 9pm on Thursdays and Sundays April through October.

June – Late night shopping

Head to your nearest shopping centre after school. Grab dinner from the food court and maybe even catch a movie. Check what day of the week offers late-night shopping. In Sydney for example, shops generally open until 9pm on Thursdays.

July – Fort building or bedroom swap

As winter descends, bring the microadventures inside. Shake up the sleeping arrangements with a bedroom swap, or sleep in a pillow fort in the lounge room.

August – Firepit with marshmallows

Toasting marshmallows on an open fire is the ultimate holiday pastime. Ask around for a fire pit, chimenea or wood heater to borrow. Otherwise, Bunnings has a great range of outdoor heating options including a Flammeta fire pit for $60. If you’re feeling fancy, why not make smores or jaffles.

September – Watch a sunrise

Wake up early and see the day break. It helps if you have an ocean, cliffside or other atmospheric lookout point near you. Otherwise, backyards and verandas make perfect vantage points for watching the first sun rays hit the sky. Accompany the morning with a special brekky, like pancakes or bacon and eggs.

October – Cook dinner together

Let the kids don their chef’s hats and take control of the kitchen. Plan an exciting menu together by looking at cookbooks then hit the kitchen. This is more fun if anything goes – dessert pizza anyone?

November – Scenic drive

Pack a picnic and follow pretty roads heading out of your city. Some of these drives are best reserved for weekend day trips, but others are easily achievable after school. Explore the routes of the Swan Valley, 30 minutes from Perth, or Adelaide Hills 45 minutes from Adelaide. From Hobart, venture into Wellington Park and up Kunanyi/Mt. Wellington.

December – Stargazing

Staying up past normal bedtime was up there with birthdays and Christmas for me as a kid. Wander up to your local park or oval after dark (a back porch will suffice). Bring some warm gear and look up. See what shapes you can make and stories you can tell using the stars. Free apps like SkyView and Night Sky can help you spot constellations. If you can, time your stargazing with an exciting ‘celestial event’ like a meteor shower or eclipse. Check online to see what’s happening in the sky.

Read about one family's microadventure here.

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