Let’s consider how your parents shaped your own love for the outdoors, if they did. Unfortunately, locking your kids outside until dinnertime is generally frowned upon these days, so that’s out. Maybe your parents had no part in your affinity for all things nature or maybe you have no affinity for nature, but you still feel like it would be a healthy routine to get your family in on. No judging, in fact, we’re here to help. Read on for tips on helping your kids to grow up loving the outdoors.
Get your Kids Outside When They’re Young
No matter your level of outdoorsy-ness, it’s fairly easy to instill a love for it in your kids if you start exposing them to it when they’re young. Does this mean you should take your month-old baby with you while you hike the backcountry in the middle of winter? I wouldn’t, but there are tons of other ways to get outside with your kids no matter their ages. Taking your kids outdoors when they are young helps them to grow up thinking it is natural. I mean, it is, right?
Take your kids Along on your Favorite Activities
I personally began walking short distances around my neighborhood with my baby when he was just 3 weeks old. I invested in a jogging stroller/car seat combo. He rode around snug and safe in his car seat on our nightly walks. Once he outgrew the car seat, he rode in the stroller without it. When he started walking, I put a simple child bike seat on my bicycle for another way to get us outside. We both enjoy “going fast.”
As he got older, I was able to include him in more activities I loved like hiking and even camping. A hiking backpack carrier is a perfect way for you to hit the trails with your little one. My son loved looking at everything as he became more aware of his surroundings, and I enjoyed burning extra calories by toting him on my back. Check out this site for lots more outdoor and camping tips for families.
Maybe your kids are older, and you’re competing with myriads of electronic entertainment that has them hypnotized. Enticing them into the great outdoors might be a little more difficult, but it is possible. Start simply. These simple acts not only get you outdoors, but also allow your children to begin to appreciate all that is around them in the world. Try things like:
- moving your dinners outside during warmer months.
- setting up games like horseshoes in your yard and creating family tournaments.
- playing in the rain, snow or even (yikes) mud.
- checking for local conservation summer camps to teach your kids about nature.
- waking the kids early one morning and taking them to see the sunrise.
There are lots of activities you can do outdoors that allow your family to work together and really connect. Hunting and fishing are not only fun sports but are also essential life skills to have. Building a teepee or fort together requires teamwork, planning and lots of communication. Even activities like canoeing or kayaking require you work together to get where you need to go. Read on for my favorite outdoor activities with the family.
Hiking with the Kids
There are a lot of ways to interact outside, but my favorite is probably going on hikes with the kids. As a family, we are all able to contribute. We let the two older children determine which trail we will be taking and lead the way. During rest or snack breaks, we try to identify fauna and flora in the area with our wildlife identification books.
Sometimes, we will venture off a marked trail (don’t tell) to follow a stream or river. One of my kids took an interest in geodes in science class at school. When he found out he could find them in local riverbeds, we began searching every creek or river we met. Every. Single. One. It was okay, though, because this is one of the few times in which we catch our older two kids collaborating with each other. They actually work together to try to add more geodes to our ever-growing pile.
Camping is another activity that requires full participation from everyone. We are still having issues with our 3-year-old pitching in her fair share. Seriously, though, pitching a tent, gathering firewood, finding roasting sticks, food prep and cleanup is not easy and everyone has a job. The rule is no s’mores until everyone is finished, and most of the time, it works.
Sitting around the campfire at night with our family is one of the best moments for us. This is when we talk about things we probably wouldn’t if we were in our own living room. If you haven’t camped before, it can get a bit overwhelming collecting all the gear you need. One thing I feel you shouldn’t scrimp on is a good sleeping bag. This article on the best sleeping Bags can help you find a good one.
Tips to Keep in Mind
Helping your kids grow up loving the outdoors is not difficult with early exposure, fun and engaging activities and the proper gear. Make getting outdoors a part of your daily routine even if conditions aren’t ideal. Cold weather hikes, camping trips, walks and trips to the park can still be super fun if you dress properly. You could even throw in the “reward” of hot chocolate upon returning home.
Kids are going to complain and not agree with everything you do. I’m convinced it is just in their nature. Still, starting simply and allowing everyone in your family to contribute to the activity at hand will greatly increase everyone’s enjoyment. Lastly, if your kids are anything like mine, make sure you pack some high-energy snacks and dole them out BEFORE anyone gets hangry.