Much as it would be great if our kids were happy to be outdoors most of the time it just doesn’t work that way, does it. Sometimes they aren’t in the mood. Let’s face it, sometimes us parents aren’t in the mood! And of course nasty weather and a lack of daylight eventually bring us back indoors anyway.
So assuming we don’t want to let our kids stay inside all day... how can we spend our (legitimate) indoor time in a way that inspires us all to get out more often?
Well, when I was a kid I watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books about outdoor adventure and you know what? That’s what inspired me as an adult to go travelling, go hiking and even to write about the outdoors. So here I’m going to list off 9 movies that should get all kids scratching at the front door, begging to be let loose in the garden.
And I’ve set myself an extra challenge. The Goonies and anything by Stephen Spielberg are not on the list because...well...they’re too obvious. So here goes, the top 9 movies (that aren’t by Stephen Spielberg) which will inspire your kids to get outdoors!
Swiss Family Robinson (1960) - Rated G
Based on the book of the same name this film charts the life of a family shipwrecked on an island. They are able to salvage loads of gear from the ship and start to live off the land. They build their own shelters, grow their own crops and tame wild animals. I still harbour a secret desire to be shipwrecked to see if I have what it takes (despite watching Castaway).
Swallows & Amazons (2017) - Rated PG
Another adaptation from a book, this British film depicts four kids given permission to sail to and camp on an island in the middle of a huge lake. They discover that other children are also on the island and a battle for ownership ensues. Adults who love the book may not enjoy the film, but it stays true to a unsupervised, kid-centric world in an endless outdoor summer.
A Walk in the Woods (2015) - Rated R
This old-man, roadtrippy dramedy isn’t exactly high art but it is fundamentally about walking The Appalachian Trail. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte give fun performances. How suitable it is for kids is really up to individual parents because there’s quite a lot of bad language. But some might be happy to overcome some of the more adult themes if it inspires their DD or DS to hike a long distance trail…
Maidentrip (2013) - Rated NR
A 14-year-old girl sets out to be the youngest person to sail around the world solo! OK so it’s a documentary and it’s not all in English and that might not appeal to some kids. But if they are willing to pay attention it’s a truly inspiring story showing how big the world really is and demonstrating what a young person can achieve. Seriously...a 14-year-old girl sailed around the world solo for two years...wow!
The Great Outdoors (1988) - Rated PG
A summer vacation comedy romp with the late, great, John Candy. It’s more lakeside retreat than outdoors-outdoors but there’s plenty of walking in the woods as well as lots of silliness and fun for the kids. Maybe one to watch immediately before heading out to a vacation house.
The Bear (1988) - Rated PG
A french film but almost completely silent, it tells the story of an orphaned bear cub that teams up with an adult grizzly while hunters come after them. It portrays British Columbia but was shot in the Dolomites. Its stunning outdoor photography is incredibly captivating, while the adventure and peril as seen through the bear’s eyes should hold the attention of most kids.
White Fang (1991) - Rated PG
Yet another outdoor movie based on a classic book, White Fang charts the relationship between a man and a wolfdog as the man prospects for gold in Alaska and the Yukon. Because it was filmed outdoors (a rarity these days) the scenery is spectacular and the ever-present wolves make for gripping drama.
Far From Home: The Adventure of Yellow Dog (1995) - Rated G
When a boy and his dog are washed ashore in the pacific north-west they have to rely on their wits and on each other to find their way home. It has breathtaking cinematography and is perfect family viewing with themes of resilience, loyalty and adventure. One for younger kids!
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) - Rated PG13
If you haven’t seen this movie it’s a weird, quirky Wes Anderson take on a coming-of-age theme. It’s set in a summer camp in in New England in 1965 so has nostalgia baked right into to it too. It’s super kid-centric, much like Swallows and Amazons which is always a plus with a kid-friendly movie IMO. (It was also kind of reminiscent of Addams Family Values in a weird sort of way).
What’s your favourite outdoor-related movie?