What Connects Your Family to Nature? | A Story Shared

You don’t have to be an outdoor adventurer to connect your family to nature, but it sure helps!  Do you take your family trekking through the woods and let them sleep under the stars?

In this addition to Take Them Outside’s Connecting to Nature Series, Mark shares how a childhood of outdoor adventure has inspired him to share his love of nature with his own children.

Small child carrying a butterfly net and man walking on a rocky path. text reads nature connections, what hiking and camping mean for one family

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Hiking & Camping Connects My Family To Nature

by Mark Danenhauer

I’m A Nature Lover From Suburban California

I grew up in some suburbs of San Diego.  Most of my childhood experiences around nature took place exploring the streets and canyons of our neighborhood with friends or my brother and sister.  I also have vivid memories of one or two camping trips.  Those early experiences of the natural world made a lasting impression on me.

As I grew up I realized I loved the natural world and beginning in college I began exploring as many wild places as I could.  That sense of wonder and love of the natural world led me to Africa, Europe, the Himalayas, the Andes, and now to New Zealand.  I have seen a lot and now my goal is to pass on my love of the natural world to my children.    


My Family – The Danenhauers

I have two children, an 8 year-old son and a 10 year-old daughter.  Our kids were born and grew up in Salt Lake City, but we now live on the North Island of New Zealand.  While living in Utah we did lots of hiking and camping all over the western United States.  

My wife is an emergency medicine doctor, which means she works hard, but has a flexible schedule that gives us lots of time to explore.  Ever since the kids were little we have taken them exploring with us.

A smiling family out hiking with mountains and a lake in the background
The Danenhauers, hiking is one way they connect to nature

We Connect To Nature By Hiking And Camping

The number one way that my family connects to nature is by going hiking and camping.  I enjoy hiking and camping because they are excellent ways for us to get outside as a family, get exercise, and spend time in nature.  

We don’t have any hard and fast rule or schedule as to how often we go hiking or camping, but we try to do it as often as time and schedules allow.  Even when we are busy with school and activities I try to get us all out at least once a week.  Sometimes that is an all day hike, but other times it is just an hour or two walk somewhere.

I Love Hiking As A Family

I love hiking, especially with my family.  Now that my kids are older we can even get out and hike longer trails.  I mean, seriously, I love hiking!  

It is a fantastic way to get exercise, but it is also a great way to spend time together as a family.

We have been taking our kids hiking since they were born.  During those early years a hike was focused on spending time outdoors in the mountains, woods, or desert.  Our goal was just to have fun.  That meant most of those ‘hikes’ were very, very short and usually turned into a picnic or just throwing rocks into a creek.  Now, at 8 and 10, our kids are faster than us on the trail and we have to work to keep up with them.  

I love teaching my kids about the wonders of the natural world when we go hiking. In fact, I’ve been doing it so long that now half the time I try to share some ‘new’ fact with them they already know about it either because I taught them about it previously or they learned it elsewhere.

 Camping Is Fun

Camping is the second main outdoor activity that I enjoy with my family.  It is a nice way that our family is able to remove ourselves from our daily lives and remember our place in the natural world.  

Most of our camping is in tents, but sometimes we will camp in a van.  Either way, we spend our day outside unless it is pouring rain.  All of that time outside, away from our devices and screens lets us slow down to the natural pace of life.  It lets us hear the birds or maybe see a fox or even a bear wander around the campground or nearby.  

young girl waving her arms wide with a tent in the background
Look at that smile! Kids love camping!

I have strong memories from our camping trips and now we as a family have strong memories.  Now the kids (remember they are only 8 and 10) are the ones that bring up some past memories of a camping trip we took together.  I think it is so cool that they have these strong, positive memories of our camping trips and the natural world.

About the author – Mark Danenhauer is a stay at home dad who loves teaching his two children about the natural world.  He is a pro at getting his children active in the outdoors.  You can connect with Mark on his blog, Jake’s Nature Blog, or you can follow him on Facebook at Jake’s Nature Guide or on Pinterest.  He has also written a book, Jake’s Nature Guide: Rocky Mountains.

What connects your family to Nature?  Are you interested in reading how others build their family’s relationships with the natural world?  It’s not all about hiking and camping.  Everyone connects with nature in different ways… visit the Nature Connections Series or read along below and be inspired:

a family with Mt. Taranaki of New Zealand in the background. text reads making nature connections, one family's story



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