There is a view that kids these days spend too much time indoors watching TV and playing video games. This means they can grow up without an appreciation of Mother Nature and her wonders and the pleasure of the simple joys of the countryside. This is especially true for kids who live in the city. But you can imbue a love of nature into kids if you’ve a mind to.
1. Don't Let Frustration and Apathy Wear You down
Kids of all ages can be tough customers when it comes to selling them the delights of outdoor life. Persuading them to go camping, hiking, cycling, kayaking, or just feeding ducks in the park can be a challenge. Don't let them or apathy wear you down. Take them anyway to show them how much fun it can be - otherwise, how are they ever going to find out? The best way to do this is to start small: small outdoor challenges when your kids are very young. By introducing them to a way of thinking that this is part of your family's normal routine, they'll soon come to see the Great Outdoors as something that's fun, not threatening. You'll raise kids who love the outdoors for life.
2. Gently Does It
You could start your eight-year-old on a hike to the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho - and most likely put them off the outdoor life for good - or you could start with something easy. Don't try to push them into something they're just too young for, even if you seem to recall braving camping trips in Sawtooth Mountains at the age of four! Parents who are used to an active outdoor life find it often hard to take baby steps. Instead of introducing their kids gently to the world, they try to push them. But if you pull gently, instead of pushing, you won't have to abandon your plans, maybe just adjust them a little. Each child develops at their own speed and your kid may not be ready to tackle a sea kayaking trip in Alaska, but may be more than willing and ready to go backpacking locally for a spot of bat-watching.
3. A Little Bribery Goes a Long Way - if Done Right!
Make things like their beloved stuffed toy or favorite candy bar a part of your vacation preparations. Creating positive associations for kids, such as teddy goes on expedition, hey, let's go with him, so we can make sure he won't get lost, and giving kids responsibilities they can handle, will go a long way. Put them in charge of pitching the tent or leading a firewood expedition, kitting them out with their own child-sized backpack with walkie-talkie or headlamp. Be sure to check regularly that everybody's tummy is satisfied. Kids don't command the same muscle mass or fat reserves as adults, which means they tire more quickly if you don't top them up every so often with energy-giving food and drink. Build in plenty of refueling stops, serving them some of their favorite food stuffs.
4. Don't Be Too Rigid with Your Itinerary
What's the point of trying to drag your kids out on a hiking trip to the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho, if your kids adore cycling or horse-riding and you would be much better served as a family to take advantage of this preference? Be ready to tear up your itinerary and adjust your plans; it's about the journey and getting them to like the outdoors as much as you do - for the rest of their lives. Always have a plan B, C and D up your sleeve. You may enjoy taking pictures of Mount So-and-So, but your kids would probably much rather skim stones in a lake or wade in a creek in search of mini-beasts. Striking a balance that will make everyone smile means you'll have to give up a little control and allow your kids some say in how you'll spend the trip.
5. Insist Your Kids Play outside
Kicking your kids out of the house to play in the garden or nearby playground where they have the freedom to roam around is the first step to wean them off electronic gadgets indoors and the perennial moan "but there's nothing to do outside". Look up easy to organize outdoor games and get them started on having fun within age appropriate boundaries set by you. After a while they'll forget you're there and will start to explore their environment for themselves, just as you did when you were a kid. Don't let irrational fears get in the way; those kids are perfectly safe. Build up on this by introducing regular activities the family can do every week, like biking or hiking, downhill skiing, karting or joining nature watch tours offered by local conservation groups.
6. Establish the "No Whining" Rule
Discuss the upcoming outdoor activity with your kids, talk and listen, but tell your kids you won't allow non-stop whining or allow Moaning Minnies to spoil the day. If you tell your kids what the plans are for the day and what you expect of them, they can address this and you can address their concerns in turn. If they are uncomfortable with aspects of your plan, reassure them they'll get however much help they need from you. Make them feel part of the planning and decision-making process, so they feel they're in control of their little lives and won't feel stressed that you're expecting them to do things they're just not ready for.
7. Build up Anticipation
Prepare a good PR campaign, and talk your kids through the upcoming trips and excursions to get them exited and willing to have a go. Building up their anticipation works even better, if you make them part of the planning team, allowing them to carry out small tasks like looking up stuff about good hiking or cycling trails, the animals you're likely to encounter or tourist attractions nearby the family might like to visit.
Encourage them by praise and you'll raise kids who love the outdoors: a kid that's been told she's a good paddler, cyclist, climber or skier will be far more eager to have a go at a new activity than a kid who thinks she sucks at outdoor stuff. They will take pride in their achievements so far and will love to try something new to challenge them or build up on things learned so far. In stressful situations, when things go wrong or a challenge turns out harder than anticipated, your kids will look to you to take the lead - and your behavior will determine how they deal with stressful situations in the future. Be calm and stay in control, and they're more likely to stay calm as well and be less scared.
Did you grow up loving the outdoors or did you only learn to appreciate it when you got older?