It’s the school holidays and you’re looking for some family adventure. Here’s why you should encourage your kids to take risks – even if it scares you just a little bit.
My mum gasped when she saw the video. But I had to show it to her – I’m not sure she would’ve believed that my two year old had just zipped down a 180-metre flying fox, 25 metres above the forest floor… on his own.
We were staying at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and Teddy had seen the signs advertising smiling pre-teens zooming along. He was incessantly begging to go – so we went to the front desk so that someone else could be the bad guy and tell him no. Instead, the chirpy employee says, “Yep – he can go! We have special harnesses that allow them to ride the flying fox from 18 months.” This is how our family came to be at a wooden launch ramp (strapped up like Christmas hams and wearing bright orange helmets), lugging lumps of metal that I was assured would attach us safely to the cable.
Teddy went first. He was attached to the zipline and my husband helped him walk down the ramp until his little feet weren’t touching the ground any more. Then, we let him go and his tiny body was sent hurtling into the leafy abyss. But there were no screams. Just a big grin at the bottom when I met him, with Teddy asking gleefully, “Again?!”.
Research shows the benefits of not just getting our children back into nature, but getting them into adventure and outside of their comfort zones, too. Encouraging risk-taking, even at toddler age, can help kids become productive, emotionally stable and environmentally literate, according to the North American Association for Environmental Education.
O’Reilly’s is perfectly geared to get your kids out of their comfort zones these school holidays, whether it’s thrill-seeking or overcoming a fear of reptiles. All kids are welcome not only on the Flying Fox Adventure, but also the Wildlife Encounter, where log benches form an outdoor classroom. They feed sugar gliders honey from their fingertips, giggling from the tickly tongues, and, if bold enough, have Russ the friendly carpet python placed around their little shoulders.
As night falls, brave kids can venture into the dark, dark woods. Hushed voices chat as we follow a bubbling creek to a glowworm grotto, torchlight slicing through the shadowy trees. Wooden seats wait for us as we switch off our torches and wait for our eyes to adjust. Then, magic. Teddy stares in wonder as the steep creek bed opposite lights up like the night sky, revealing hundreds of resident glowworms. We learn how they glow, how they hunt and, their impressive love lives.
It was one of those holidays that, long after the car has been unpacked, and the piles of laundry done, the kids still talk about. And, ever since, Teddy can be found, gleeful, at the top of the tallest climbing frame in the park, not afraid of anything
SCHOOL HOLIDAY ADVENTURES AWAIT
AGE: 1-year-olds to adults
WHERE: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Lamington National Park
WHAT: Fly down the 180m zipline or hold a snake at the Wildlife Encounter. At night, walk through the forest to see glowworms. Their ‘Eco Rangers Program’ is for kids aged from 5 and runs during school holidays.
AGE: 3 – 7 years
WHERE: Tree Top Challenge Juniors, Mt Tamborine
WHAT: Attempt a high ropes adventure course, complete with obstacles and ziplines.
AGE: 8+ years
WHERE: Tree Top Challenge, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
WHAT: Flyover crocodiles, kangaroos and emus as you attempt the high ropes adventure course – complete with 11 ziplines and 80 challenges.