Getting Outside: Extreme Family Activities

Outdoor pursuits have never been more popular and for good reason.

When once derring dos such as scaling cliff edges or cycling down rough forest trails were reserved for adventurous Indiana Jones-types, today, thanks to numerous adventure companies, anyone can have a crack at them.

In the last 20 years or so the nature of the outdoors holiday has changed completely. The tents and sited caravans have got more spacious and comfortable, the equipment that we cook on has got more efficient and it feels like every year there’s a new kind of fun activity that you can try your hand at.

Holidays, when I was a sprog, consisted of our odd little family trundling up the road to a campsite with my Granddad’s old battered Force 10 canvas tent, struggling to heat up a can of beans and then struggling even harder to go to sleep as both my Grandparents competed to out-snore each other. Thankfully my camping holidays have improved somewhat since then!

With so many fun activities that you can get involved with these days, it can be hard to make your mind up as to what you should try. As with all outdoor play activities, you’ll need to make sure that your entire party is comfortable with taking part and that they meet whatever height restrictions that the instructors set.

Mountain Biking

Britain is home to some great mountain biking trails that offer a healthy mix of challenging inclines, varied terrain and fun downhill sprees. Your party will need to all be proficient cyclists and you should thoroughly research your route before you embark on it, so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s also imperative that you’re wearing the correct protection gear. Falls can be quite common place on these trails so you should wear knee pads and elbow pads on top of the standard helmet – just to be safe.

Safety Tip: Always carry lights, pump and repair kits on you – just in case!

Kayaking & Canoeing

I’ve already mentioned how much fun playing in water can be, but have you considered taking your water play out onto the open water? Kayaking or canoeing can be just the thing to spice up your family holiday. You can usually rent them from vendors at the beach for 45 minutes to an hour at a time, or you ca book a half day session with an instructor who will take you through the basics and then guide you on your very own aquatic adventure!

Safety Tip: The boat vendor should always include life jackets with your vessel, don’t go on the water without one.

Archery

A sport that is often overlooked by many, archery is a fun hobby that can be easy to pick up in the space of just a couple of hours. You can purchase archery sets online through popular vendors, though it’s always a good idea to get instruction before you try your hand at it. There are loads of places that you can grab a bow and arrow at across the UK, but it’s always best to get some form of instruction before you try attempting to hunt any rabbits…

Safety Tip: It’s vital that you follow the instructor’s commands, the tips of the arrows might be blunt but they can still deal great damage to people.

Rock Climbing

There’s a vibrant rock climbing scene in the UK, supported by a network of thousands of climbers who constantly share their climbs through sites like UKClimbing.com. Once more, this is the kind of activity where an instructor is absolutely essential. There are loads of indoor climbing centres where you can take your family to get to grips with the basics before heading outdoors to tackle a real cliff face – equipment hire is usually cheap, just make sure that all your gear is thoroughly tested and in good nick before you do anything!

Safety Tip: Make sure your instructor is properly licensed and certified before you head out on your excursion.…

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Video Games Explained

The world of video games can be rather bewildering…

As a man in his mid-thirties, I’ve seen the rise of video games from simple arcade attractions to clunky handhelds, to the high-powered behemoths that exist today. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve been able to stop being a spectator of these things and start becoming an active participant.

There used to be a stigma against ‘grown men’ (as I’m begrudgingly referred to) playing video games. In the 80s and 90s simply the phrase ‘video games’ conjured up images of brightly coloured mascots such as Nintendo’s Mario or spotty teenagers feverishly mashing a sweaty control pad: not entirely cool or respectable.

Over the last few years the industry has grown up, alongside the people playing them, leading us into a brave new world of video game entertainment that offers people of all ages a chance to ‘play’ without having to deal with the old stigmas that might have previously put them off.

Having never touched  a video game in my life, I decided it was high to time to step into this world but that turned out to be a lot easier said than done.

I turned to the internet first for guidance, as we’re all trained to do now. However, I wasn’t presented with a simple guide on how to get started or what was best for me, so I thought I’d start out by trying to make sense of this brave new world and give beginners (like me) a chance to understand what games are right for them.

Mobile Video Games

This format of video games are far and away the most accessible for most people, despite the fact that they are a relatively recent development. In the UK, 71% of all adults own a smart phone. Whether these phones run the popular Android operating system or they’re an iPhone (running iOS), they will have access to a store where they can download applications (‘apps’ for short).

Some of these apps may be functional programs, but the majority of them will be games, many of which are free to download. Mobile games are a great starting point for beginners because of their accessibility and affordability, however it’s worth remembering that they are often very simple and some even have hidden costs that might lead to you accidentally spending money.

Try: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft – A simple digital card game with surprising depth. You can buy more cards should you wish, but the game is perfectly enjoyable without this and the game  will also educate you in the lore of the popular Warcraft gaming world.

Consoles

If you’re thinking of taking a more concerted step into the world of video games then you should consider buying a dedicated console. This will allow you to play on your television and use a controller, a more traditional style of video gaming. They range greatly in price, so it’s worth considering your budget before stepping in.

A top of the range Playstation 4 Pro, for example, will cost you £349.99, however you can find an older iteration of this console for as cheap as £200 if you look around. If this is still too much, then you can buy a console from a previous generation for around £75, the games will be cheaper but you’ll struggle to find people to play online with.

Try: Hunting eBay for used or refurbished current generation consoles or buy from exchange shops like CEX to get the best bargains.

PC/Mac Games

If you already own a PC or a Mac then you’ve already got a machine that you can play video games on! The first thing you’ll need to do is research how powerful your system is by checking your ‘System Properties’. Then you can download Steam and peruse the online store for a game you’re interested in that will run on your machine. You can either buy a controller that will connect to your computer or play using a mouse and keyboard, depending on what kind of game you’re playing. Games sold on Steam vary greatly, but can often be cheaper than traditional console games.

Try: Typing the game title into YouTube first to get a preview of what it looks like, you can also use the site Can I Run It, to find out if your system is powerful enough for your chosen game.

There are many more types of video games that you can play including handheld consoles, arcades and flash games. If you’d like to get started right away then you can play loads of nifty little games at Miniclip.com

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