Let’s face it – a love for the outdoors may not come naturally to everyone. This rings especially true for our youngest generation; the generation that will have grown up with more screen-time options than one can imagine. If you’re a parent who loves the outdoors, and you want to raise a child who shares that same passion, it’s easy enough to set the stage for a healthy relationship with mother nature. With a little time and effort, your child will reap the benefits of outside time, just like you. Read on for ten tips on how to raise children with a love for the outdoors.
- Create Positive Outdoor Experiences
In order to start the cycle of more outdoor time amongst your children and foster their relationship and love for mother nature, the best place to start is by experiencing the outdoors in a positive way. For example, if you’re just starting out introducing your kids to more outside time, have no other agenda than making it fun. Don’t jump into extreme weather. Don’t give them a hard time for whining if they’re not wanting to walk more. You have one job, and one job only. Make it fun. Bring a favorite treat along, a beloved stuffy, or any other special item that will bring joy. If you start your outdoor adventures in a positive way, this will inherently encourage even more outdoor play.
- Start Small
There’s nothing worse than a child feeling defeated when they’re trying their best. If you’re going to head out on a walk, on a SUP adventure, for a hike, or whatever the next adventure is that’s calling, start small. Especially if your little ones are toddlers, you’ll want to plan adventures that are not too intense for their little legs to handle. Once you’ve finished up an adventure, give praise! There’s no better motivation than reaching that “finish line” with hugs from mom or dad.
- Repetition is Key
The only way to get accustomed to something is by doing it over and over again! Make outside time a priority for the whole family. Family bike rides after dinner. Saturday morning nature walks. After school time on the water. Beginning a new tradition that involves the outdoors will not only keep your children excited about these special times, but they will learn to love the outdoors all of the time. No matter the weather, you can always make time for outside play and adventures. Which brings us to our next tip…
- There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather
As the Scandinavian saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothes.” Sit with that for a minute and tell us you can’t not agree. It’s true. Rain, sun, snow, or shine, there’s always room for time outside. It’s just a matter of how you dress. So, if you’re planning to go sledding in the snow, set your child up for success by dressing them in warm, waterproof clothes, from head to toe. The last thing you want is for your child to get upset over being too cold or too hot. Include an “extra clothes basket” in your car with gloves, beanies, change of clothes, swimsuit, and anything else you might need. Being prepared for all weather is a recipe for success.
- Throw Expectations Out The Window
Do not think you are about to charge that five-mile trek that you usually do alone with your young kiddo, who is just beginning their hiking journey. Throw all expectations out the window. That way you’re not let down or feel any disappointment in not achieving your “goal”. Sure, it’s fine to set small, achievable goals, but do it right.
- Monkey See, Monkey Do
You are your child’s role model. Most certainly, they watch every move you’re making (and what you’re saying, too!), and will undoubtedly mirror what they see. If you want your child to experience more of the outdoors, set an example. Make it a point to tell them if you’re heading out on an outdoor experience. Let them see you take the dog for a walk. Then, let them take the dog for a walk. If they see you opting for outside time over screen time, it’s a win-win.
- Get Your Kids Geared Up
It’s exciting to try out a new hobby, but is there anything better than trying out that new skill with some fresh gear of your very own? Take your children shopping with you to pick out some of their own goods. Everything from snow bibs, to backpacks, to SUPs, to hiking boots — include your child in the process. This feels so much more about them — and not you — when they are involved in every aspect. Let them rock their new gear on all of the adventures to come, woo hoo!
- Say Goodbye To The Stroller
This one is specific to young children who are capable of walking, but you’re hanging on to the stroller for your own sake. Yes, it is certainly nice to move at a quicker pace. Let’s go back to tip number five — throw your expectations out the window. Get rid of the stroller for slow, meaningful walks. Set your child up for success by easing into longer walks. Without the crutch of a stroller, your child will be running ahead of you in no time.
- Encourage Outside Free Play
When you hear those infamous words, “Mom! Dad! I’m bored!” — you should know exactly what to do. Get those kids outside! If they are not used to playing freely outside, start by offering them a few ideas, like kicking the soccer ball around, or playing tag. In time, they will find their way and make up their own games. We’re that some of your favorite childhood memories are those of playing outside, without a care in the world. Give that to your children. Encourage free play outside, daily.
- Expand Your Knowledge: Resources
If leading an outdoor lifestyle does not come easy to you, that’s okay. And it’s okay to feel intimidated with introducing these concepts to your children. There are plenty of books, podcasts, blogs, and so much more to help you along the way. Knowledge is power, so read up on relevant outdoor tips and you’ll feel the helping hand guide you. Here’s a look at some of our recommended pieces to give a read or listen:
- There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather
- How to Raise a Wild Child
- Outdoor Kids in an Inside World
- Run Wild My Child Podcast
- Hike It Baby – connect with other families who love the outdoors!
There’s really no right or wrong way to go about exposing your child to the outdoors, other than to keep offering it, and ultimately, making sure each experience is a positive one that keeps them wanting more. Take your part and put these ten tips for raising children with a love for the outdoors in action. You’ll cherish the memories made together, and that’s what matters most.