live your

  • Rebecca P. Cohen

It is the experience outside together that changes us

"This is the best day of my life!" declared my five year old. We just went kayaking - my husband, my two young sons, and me - for the first time. We were on the water only an hour, but it changed us as a family.

Have you ever tried to do something many times before and it never works out? And then, one day, it finally works out, and it all finally makes sense. Just like kayaking.

I've thought about kayaking on flat water (no rapids for me, thanks) ever since I heard about it its calming effect from Lorin Beller Blake of Big Fish Nation. Problem was, there was never a place near me to rent a kayak.

Last fall, we rented a canoe as a family for the first time, and that experience inspired our interest in fishing. Nothing fancy or "serious", just a lazy afternoon together on a public lake and a small rental fee for the canoe.

But kayaking never worked out: in South Carolina, I biked all the way to the meeting point only to be told I had wrong information; in Nevada, the concierge politely told me that although it was 65 degrees farenheit that there probably weren't any places to rent a kayak in winter.

Then finally, kayaking happened on the day and with the group I least expected it: with my family.

"Of course," I thought and smiled.

On our annual trip to Florida, we decided to take an adventure to the Keys. At the great recommendation of co-founder, Rachael Bender, I jotted down a note to stop by John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo. The first underwater park in the U.S., the park is known for snorkling. But, I noticed upon arrival signs for kayaking too.

Long story short - because it is always a process to get four people to agree to do the same thing - for the price of a movie, we had an amazing experience outside. Instead of just seeing mangrove forests on TV, we got to gently paddle our way through them. Instead of seeing jellyfish at the acquarium, we saw them on the side of the boat. Thanks to my older son's noticing, we saw tiny clear jellyfish in the water with electric green spots inside.

And the icing on the cake: a bald eagle overhead.

Was it all without worry? No. I have to say I was a little nervous about my five year old sitting on his own even with his life jacket (of course, he was absolutely fine). Our pants were soaking wet because the seats of the kayak weren't dry (next time my husband will store his wallet on higher ground!).

Would my husband and older son ever kayak again? Not sure, but I really proud of them for trying something new.

Me? I'm hooked, just like I dreamed I'd be. I've asked for a tandem kayak for Mother's Day so I can search for lakes to ride with my five year old.

So don't let go of those experiences you dream of having. Chances are, they will be even better than you ever expected.

About Rebecca P. Cohen

Rebecca P. Cohen believes time outside transforms our lives for the better. PJ's Backyard Adventures is the latest project from Rebecca, author of the book 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids (Sourcebooks), and creator of Rebecca Plants Curiosity Cards. Rebecca’s work has been featured in countless media outlets, including USA Today, Parenting, Redbook, Working Mother, and Family Circle. In addition, Rebecca has appeared on live morning news shows around the country, and is also host of the video series, Get Out of the House, which shows fun ideas for time outside in every season. For Rebecca's inspiring blog and free downloads, visit

#activitiesforkids #baldeaglesinwinter #chilhoodobesity #familyexperiencesoutside #getoutofthehouse #johnpennekampstatepark #kayakinginwinter #keywestforfamilies