Kids love outdoors
We live in an era where kids are wired from a young age. As this video shows, even at 18 months, there are plenty of kids who have already mastered Mommy and Daddy’s android phones. Today’s kids still build forts and tree houses, but even these are often virtual tree houses built in a virtual world, like in games on mobiles and computers. Kids love outdoors if parents take proactive efforts to have their kids fall in love with Nature.
If you’re a parent who wants to raise your children to love the great outdoors, how do you compete with things like Play stations, iPods, and smartphones? How do you raise your kids to have a lifelong respect and enjoyment of the world beyond the touchscreen? Here are four suggestions for helping your kids to fall in love with nature from an early age.
1. To begin with, be careful about pushing your kids.
Take a moment to step into the shoes of your children by remembering what it was like to be their age. From an early age, as soon as your parent or parents got stern and told you that you “had” to do something, such as “you have to clean your room” or “you have to eat your broccoli,” you began to rebel. Even as adults, we still don’t like being told what to do.
If you try to force your children to enjoy the outdoors, they will rebel even against that. Therefore, be careful about how you talk about the outdoor activities and how you talk about their other enjoyments, such as their video games. If they love their video games and you constantly speak negatively to them about those games, they are going to resent you and push back when you try to tear them away from the small screen. In the same way, if you frequently employ “you have to, whether you like it or not” speak about the great outdoors, they will resent your attempts to force them to like what you like. If you push hard enough, they will dig in their heels and decide to dislike outdoor activities simply to spite you. You know that’s true, too, because you probably did the same thing to your parents at some point growing up when you got pushed too hard on something.
2. Limit television and game time from an early age; send them outside instead.
In the decades and centuries before parents used video games and televisions as babysitters, they used the outdoors as a babysitter. “Go play outside” was the refrain parents used when the kids were getting too wound up indoors.
From a young age, set firm rules in your house like “only one hour of TV per night” or “video games only on the weekends.” Meanwhile, be cautious about how often you use TV and video games as a reward; rewarding kids with more electronic stimulation will teach them that electronics are where the real enjoyments lie. Instead of letting them find all their fun indoors, send your kids outside to play and let them learn to entertain themselves and love being outside.
Parents these days often have irrational fears about children playing outside. They fear the child will get hurt; worse, they fear the child will get abducted. Scraping knees, spraining joints, and even occasionally breaking a bone is simply a part of childhood. As for abduction, this fear is one that has been hugely exaggerated over the past few decades. Despite how much sensationalized attention abduction gets in the media, childhood abduction is actually extremely rare. Teach your children how to be safe, know where they are playing, set boundaries for them on how far they can roam, and then turn them out of the house. Playing outside will keep them physically active, help them develop social skills as they play with siblings or neighborhood kids, and teach them to love the outdoors on their own terms.
3. Send your kids to summer camp.
Another way to help children come to love the outdoors on their own terms is to send them off to a summer camp. At the right summer camp, they’ll spend their days playing outside, swimming in lakes, learning how to pitch a tent, and learning how to ride a horse or sail a boat. It’s one thing when Mom and Dad encourage you to get in a tent as they say, “C’mon, it’ll be fun!;” it’s another thing when a cool young counselor and ten friends your own age are all enthusiastic about camping. If you can afford to send kids to an outdoors-oriented summer camp, there’s a good chance they’ll come to love the outdoors for the rest of their lives.
4. When taking family hikes, remember that kids get tired and hungry faster than you.
When you’re out on a hike with your children and they start to whine, your first assumption might be that they are whining to be defiant or whining because they’re not used to being outside. As every parent knows, though, kids whine most often when they are tired or hungry. A cranky kid on a hike might not be a sign of that kid being ripped away from his precious video games or that he doesn’t like your idea of a good time; a cranky kid might simply be a tired, hungry kid.
Kids don’t have the same level of stamina as adults, so when you hike, camp, ski, bike, or kayak with your kids, be prepared to take more breaks than you would if you were on your own. Keep them well-hydrated and have plenty of snacks on-hand to help them keep their energy levels high. If you push your kid on an outdoor activity past the point where he or she finds it enjoyable, the next time you suggest it, you’ll naturally run into resistance.
Conclusion: Start Young and Be Consistent
The sooner you start putting the four suggestions above into practice, the better. Kids who are going on hikes from the time they are two years old and never knew a time when playing inside happened more often than playing outside are far more likely to love the outdoors for the rest of their lives. Even if you’ve just discovered a love of the outdoors yourself, however, and your electronics-addicted kid is already ten years old, it’s still not too late. Get kids playing outside on their own terms first, then start suggesting more and more outdoor activities that you can do together as a family.