Fall Lessons with Run Wild My Child

Meet mom and founder of Run Wild My Child, Sara McCarty - she offers her best tips and recs to get your kids off screens and into nature!
1. How and why did you start Run Wild My Child? Was there something that you experienced personally that made you want to share your findings with other parents? I created Run Wild My Child in 2017 to let everyone else in on a little magical parenting secret I discovered – it’s all easier when you’re outside! From the very beginning of our parenting journey, we quickly realized how much easier it was to parent outside. The baby was calmer outside. We felt better outside. Everyone slept better when we spent time outside…and that’s a very big deal when you’re a new parent.

We prioritized spending time outside together and wondered why more people weren’t doing the same. We were taking the kids along on our hikes, bike rides, fishing trips, and farm weekends. I had a personal blog at the time and I started sharing stories and photos from our weekend outdoor adventures and the questions started rolling in…  How do you hike with a toddler? What fishing gear do you recommend for little kids? How do you go camping with kids? Is it ok to let them play in the creek? 

We weren’t doing anything revolutionary or super adventurous – but we were doing enough that people noticed and they wanted to give spending more time outside a try. These were parents that didn’t want their kids growing up on a screen and wanted to give them a childhood similar to how they grew up (outside). I realized there was no “entry-level” website that helped parents become more outdoorsy and confident in nature, so, Run Wild My Child was born. It was my way of sharing this parenting secret called the “outdoors” with other parents!

2. What is your mission? Run Wild My Child’s mission is to inspire, encourage, and help parents connect with their kids through outdoor adventures, activities, and travel. At the end of the day, we want to raise happy, healthy, confident kids that love and respect nature. And we want to help you do the same. We emphasize the importance of outdoor play for children and the benefits (for both kids and adults) of spending time in nature. We want to make getting your kids outside a little easier with fun outdoor activities for kids of all ages, kid-friendly gear and travel recommendations, and real-life parenting advice.
3. Do you have any mottos or mantras that you always reference when it comes to being a mom? One of the most helpful parenting mantas I’ve heard is, “You can have it all, but not at the same time.” I have to constantly remind myself of this. Being a mom is an endless balancing act, and there’s only a finite amount of time and energy to go around. What I pour my time and energy into will usually thrive, but that means something else withers a bit. Working on improving my marriage may mean that my friendships take a back burner. Or getting through a big project at work means that sleep and fitness might suffer. It can be really easy to be hard on yourself for the shortcomings and feel like you’re failing when you’re in the thick of it, but gradually things shift and you have to remember that your priorities are always moving. It helps me to think of everything as a “phase” and, just like in parenting little ones, trust that you’ll get through it.
4. What are some of your trusted resources and tips for parents to get their “kids off screens and into nature”? Did you know that the average American child spends 5-7 minutes outside a day and 6+ hours on a screen every day? That’s staggeringly off-balance and we want to help change that. I think the first thing parents need to do is not beat themselves up about their kids’ screen time. We’re not saying that screens are evil or don’t have a place in our lives. However, we do think that screens have become an “easy button” answer to keeping kids occupied and there needs to be more balance between screen time and outdoor time. 

When your kids are little, it’s much easier to dictate how (and where) they spend their time. Little kids, while difficult in many ways, are sometimes the easiest to get outside because they don’t have much control over their own schedule. They’re pretty willing to play at the park, take a walk, go for a bike ride, or play outside. This is the time to cultivate a love of the outdoors through activities that you enjoy doing. Let them see you having fun outside and being interested in nature. They just want to be with you and your enthusiasm about being outside (or lack thereof) will rub off on them. 

As kids get older, they become a lot more opinionated about what activities they want to do (or not do) and how they spend their time. This is the time to listen to their ideas and find things to do outside that play into their interests. Maybe this means letting them bring a friend with them on a hike, or meeting up with another family for an activity. With older kids, you may need to level up your outdoor activities and provide a little healthy risk taking for them through adventures and experiences. There are also fun ways to combine outdoor time with technology, such as geocaching or wildlife identification with the Seek app.

5. What are some of your favorite outdoor activities for Fall? Maybe it’s just my absolute love of all things autumn, but I think everything’s more fun to do in the fall. One of our family’s favorite fall activities is camping. We go camping every October with a few other families and we all look forward to it throughout the year. Camping is so much more enjoyable when it’s cool at night, there are no mosquitos, and we don’t have to deal with crowded campgrounds. We also love hiking in the fall. We’re lucky to live in a place where the fall colors are pretty spectacular and any hike through the woods is like walking through a watercolor painting. As a family, we also love fly fishing in the fall, attending outdoor sporting events (college football games and playoff baseball), and visiting our local orchard for hayrides, apple picking, and games.

6. Most families are so busy these days. What is your advice for ensuring outdoor play fits into our schedules? I love this question! Yes, it can feel hard because we are all so busy. But, we’re not too busy to find time for the things we want to do the most. If it’s important to us, we’ll find the time for it, whether that’s watching a favorite show, spending time with friends, or reading a book. So, the first step is to realize it needs to be a priority. Parents need to understand the importance of getting kids outside and see first-hand all the ways in which is makes life easier and benefits their kids. Once you see that your child eats, sleeps, and behaves better after spending time outside and watch your kids become curious, independent, and confident outside, you’ll start prioritizing it.

When outside time is a priority, you’ll start looking for pockets of time here and there, where you can squeeze it in or find ways to take your everyday indoor activities outside. For example, you may choose to walk or ride your bikes to school instead of driving. You may intentionally choose sports or extracurricular activities that are outdoors, or choose to send your child to an outdoor school. You can take advantage of evening hours by having dinner outside, adding twinkle lights to your backyard playset, or taking evening strolls around the neighborhood.

7. Being a female entrepreneur, what would your advice be to someone (particularly a mom) who is interested in pursuing their passion and starting a business via website or social platform? My advice would be to absolutely give it a go! As moms, we so often put everyone else’s needs above our own and suppress our desires to explore our passions. But, I truly believe that moms need an outlet to express themselves and cultivate their passions. It’s not selfish, it’s self-care. 

I’d encourage moms that are considering this to start a side hustle in a field that they’re really passionate about, and see where it goes. Maybe you’ll scratch an itch that you had and be satisfied after a few months. Maybe you’ll discover a superpower you didn’t know you had and be able to turn it into a career. Either way, you need to have passion and a strong purpose behind your business to keep going through the hard parts. And trust me, there will be hard time when you want to give up and sacrifices (mainly in the form of sleep for me), so believing in your mission is imperative. 

I’m not going to say entrepreneurship’s been an easy road for me, but I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I’ve had to teach myself how to run a business, how to balance work with family, and how to wear all the hats (I’m the CEO, and HR, and IT department).  I make mistakes daily, but I’m also learning and growing and excited about what’s next. I believe it’s made me a better mother and is showing my kids that it takes courage, grit, and hard work to make something successful.

8. What is your favorite part about running Run Wild My Child? And what is the most challenging? Hands down, the best part about running RWMC is working with the team of amazing parents that contribute to our website. When I started this business, I never thought it would be anything more than just me writing about my family’s adventures, so bringing on a team of writers and photographers was intimidating. But, it’s also been the best decision I’ve made in my business and has made a huge difference in the types of content we can provide. 

Our Creative Team is made up of writers, photographers, teachers, farmers, homeschoolers, business owners, outdoor adventurers, and (most importantly) parents. Between us, we have kids of all ages, abilities, and races, and live in a variety of locations (beach, mountain, farm, forest, city, and suburb).  It has been such a pleasure getting to know these incredible women, helping them find their unique voices, and giving them a platform to inspire other parents. 

The hardest part about running a business (maybe not surprisingly) is the actually “business” part. It’s been a bit tricky finding creative ways to monetize a concept (getting outside with kids) that’s totally free!

9. Would you like to share any sneak peeks or hints on future happenings for you and Run Wild My Child? Right now, while our writers are busy creating fall content for our website and social media, I’m working behind the scenes on the details for some big new projects and events!  

We haven’t made our big official announcement yet, but in January, we’ll be hosting a free online summit to help busy moms make 2023 their best year yet. We’ll have experts, coaches, and industry leaders speaking on mom-specific problem areas that could use a bit of improvement in the new year. Everything from improving your marriage, to getting your finances in order, meal planning, prioritizing outdoor time, stop yelling at your kids, and so much more. We’re really excited about it. 

And in the spring, we’ll be hosting our 2nd annual Treasure Hunt! Last year, we hid real life treasure boxes filled with prizes and goodies in 10 cities across the US and encouraged families to get outside to find them (and enjoy the day outdoors together). This year’s Treasure Hunt will be even bigger and better, with additional cities added, more brands and gear included, tougher clues, and more ways to win prizes! 

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