In the digital age, many children would rather play games on a smartphone or tablet or sit in front of a TV. However, the benefits of the great outdoors are important for a child’s development. So, as a parent, how can you coax your children out of the house, away from the screens and get them to engage in the larger world of nature? Here are some tips for and benefits of raising your children to love the outdoor world.
Why Is It Important?
Some 21st-century parents may believe that “outdoor time” is an antiquated notion, but there are certain ways in which the outdoor world challenges and expands a child’s mind that just can’t happen indoors. For instance, the way kids play outdoors is less structured than indoor play. When you have a play date at a park, beach or even on a trail, your son or daughter can interact with nature in an infinite number of ways. This puts your child in control of their own actions and choices. Furthermore, a lot of outdoor playtime relies heavily on imagination, which expands their conception of what is possible. Nature can also teach responsibility, as plants and animals can be hurt of die if mistreated; nature holds children responsible for their actions.
As an outdoor enthusiast, you want your child to have the same love of nature you do. Get them involved and invested in the outdoor activities you plan for them in a number of ways. First, let them pick their own equipment. If you’re planning on a hike with your son or daughter, let them pick out their own boots and backpack. Visit an outfitter, like your local Cabela’s, so your child can see and try on the equipment they will need. Second, put your child in a position of power when on your adventure. For instance, if you go on a hike, make them the navigator and let them explore the trail before you. Third, make your adventure a learning experience for your child and point out the different kinds of trees, mosses, mushrooms, bugs and animals you see while in nature.
According to The Center for Confidence and Well-Being in the United Kingdom, nature helps children deal with stress, but this doesn’t necessarily mean a hike in the mountains — this could be as short and simple as a twenty-minute walk in the park. Similarly, children who suffer from ADHD can benefit from the outdoors, as the slower pace at which life moves in nature, compared to the constant digital and technological world, gives them the opportunity to focus more thoroughly on what is right in front of them. Perhaps the most obvious benefit research supports concerning children and the outdoors is that of exercise and obesity. ParticipACTION, a Canadian non-profit organization, has implemented a series of programs across the country that challenge adults and children alike to ride their bikes, go on hikes as well as other outdoor activities. ParticipACTION has even created Teen Challenges, which supports teens who may not have the means or know-how to achieve their outdoor ambition. There are many outdoor initiatives throughout North America, especially here, in the United States. If you need ideas or a community to get your children involved with the outside, The Outdoor Alliance for Kids is a great place to start.