Now that I am a parent, I realize the work and dedication it took to pass this love onto us. I look back on the memories with great fondness but I know there was grumbling, complaining, and moodiness on occasion. As a parent now, I can see the simple yet great ways my dad and mom made it fun.
Being outside, enjoying the beauty of creation is one of my happy places. I want it to be that for my boys as well. I am learning that it takes planning, patience, and persistence to take kids into to outdoors. Here are some of the strategies I learned from my parents and am using with my own boys.
Make It Fun
This starts with trail/activity choice. I’ve found that a stream to play in or a hill to sled down goes a long ways in motivating my kids to get outside. Last Friday, we went snowshoeing. Most five and seven-year-olds will not appreciate a five or even a three-mile snowshoe loop. But, strap sleds to your pack, choose a trail with a great sledding hill a mile in, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Also, when the going gets tough and the complaining starts, come prepared with a game to play. Our favorite is “I’m Going on a Lion’s Hunt.” We take turns telling what we will bring on a lion’s hunt. The kids love it, it distracts them and pretty soon we’ve arrived at our destination!
Getting outside with kids is not about the mileage. Set realistic goals that they can attain. This motivates them to want to keep getting out there. This can be a hard one for me. I’m a runner. It’s not uncommon for me to run eight miles in a day. A two-mile hike seems like nothing but it’s a big deal for my kids! I’ve had to shift my mindset away from how far or how fast we will go and slowdown.
When we were out snowshoeing, my five-year-old could not stay on the trail. He would wander off through the deep snow, getting stuck in tree wells and traipsing up the side of the mountain. At first it was cute, but then I found myself getting annoyed because his rabbit trails had slowed us to a tortoise pace. As I felt the frustration start to rise, I stopped, asked myself what my agenda was and realized that I was achieving it. He was in love with the outdoors.
It’s Okay to Bribe
In most areas of our life, there are no bribes. We don’t have sticker charts or reward programs in our home. I have my reasons for it but I’m okay with bringing a bribe to the trail. In fact, one of my favorite memories growing up was the licorice my dad would pack to bribe us up the mountain. The licorice was a special treat, one of the few times we got it and to this day, I have a special love for soft licorice ropes. When we head out, I often pack is little surprise. I’ll give my kids a goal of making it up so many switchbacks or getting to a certain tree and when we make it, I give them a small candy or piece of licorice. These little bribes are great motivators when they’re about to give up and I hope they will remember them with the same fondness I do.
Have water, snacks, 1st Aid Kit, extra clothes, extra water, extra snacks. This isn’t the time for minimalist packing. Hungry, cold, bleeding kids are not happy kids. And don’t forget to pack for yourself. This is one I’m working on. We got half way up the trail last Friday before I realized I’d forgotten my coat. I was focused on making sure I had everything for the kids that I forgot about myself! So I’m writing this one for myself! Pack at home and double check at the trailhead!
Do you have any fun or practical tips you use to pass on the love of the outdoors to your kids? If you do, please share in the comments below. If you haven’t braved the outdoors with your kids yet, hopefully some of these tips will encourage you to do so this year!
Here is to a year of play, making memories, and passing on a love of the outdoors!