One of the hardest things about becoming a parent is the thought that you’ll lose the ability to do the things you love. I thought I was going to lose the ability to get outside often. And honestly, there are seasons of life where it is much harder, but I found, after some trial and error, I didn’t need to lose that outside time just because I had kids. I could share that love with them and slowly they would love it with me.
We’re at ages four and two right now with our kids and I almost never have to bribe or beg them to go outside anymore. In fact, sometimes I have to convince them to stay in. Here are my nine tried and true steps that (I believe) have helped turn my kids into outdoor lovers!
1. Go Outside Often
Again, again, again, oh and again. How do we learn to do something new? We practice. It’s the same for helping our kids learn to love something. We can’t take them outside one time and boom they love it (although, with certain kids sometimes that can be the case). But it’s through consistency that true love is built. It’s in the over again—different types of weather, new experiences—where the seed grows into deep roots. You don’t have to be extreme either, just consistent.
2. Make It Fun
What little kid likes to go for a walk and just walk? Or watch a show that doesn’t provide any entertainment value? It may feel like more work but by the end, everyone is in better spirits. Before you know it the kids will be leading the games (pretend or real) and you get to just be along for the ride! Play follow the leader, pick something to look for e.g. cool clouds, new birds, the biggest pinecone, tell stories or maybe even sing songs. What do your kids enjoy? Nothing big and fancy is needed. Just help your kids see that being outside is an enjoyable experience!
3. Don’t Give In to Tears
Are you new to getting your kids outdoors? Think of that famous quote from Albert Einstein, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Sometimes you’ll have a terrible outing and think “Welp, we’re not doing that again." I get that. But it won’t be that way every time. It’s all a part of the new experience. You just have to keep going and find that positive outdoor experience to reignite your fire! Consistency (see Tip #1) is more important than perfection.
4. Talk About Why You Love It
Do you have a kid who is always asking to do certain of your tasks or hobbies with you? That's because they want to be with you, but often it is also because they think “hmmm mom/dad do that a lot, it must be fun!” So I like to tell my kids the “why” behind why we get outside so often! Sometimes when we’re on a walk, or doing something outside in passing I’ll say to my littles “Wow, doesn’t being outside just feel so nice?” or “Man my body feels so good when I get to move it outside. I have so much more energy.” I have started hearing my son say similar phrases to me when we head outside. Our kids tend to love what we love and when they hear (and see) why, it makes them notice those feelings in themselves.
5. Join Them Outside
Why would our kids love being outside if we never were out there with them?! “Hey go play outside, it’s good for you. But I’m just going to stay inside where it's warm/cool”. That is so confusing! Sure, there are definitely times my kids go in the backyard without me because they know I’ve got something to do inside, but boy do I try to join them outside as much as possible. Our kids won’t love the outdoors if they see it as a space that we send them to get a break from them. I’m not saying you have to be on the ground doing everything they are, but just your body being out there with them will help them love it more.
6. Baby Steps, Baby Steps, Baby Steps
Ready to take your kids on an overnight backpack trip?! Jokes! That would be a lot. Start with short walks, playing in the backyard for 10 minutes, or picnicking on the back lawn. As we do more and more the kids last longer and longer, and soon they’ll be begging to not come back inside. We do lots of walks in our local parks and now our oldest is begging to go on our big hikes with us. Have you heard of the challenge 1,000 Hours Outside? It doesn’t say 1,000 hours outside in a month or a year, it just says start getting outside now. 10 min slowly becomes 30 minutes and before you know it it's spring/summer and you can’t find time to be inside!
Talk to them about it afterward. What did they see? What did they hear? What was their favorite part? Was there a part that was hard for them? Not only does this help improve their memory recall, but it also helps them remember the positive experiences and gets them fired up to go again. We always talk about our different hikes or adventures over and over and we find our kids asking to go get back out there!
8. Be Prepared (aka Snacks)
What do you need to be successful? Snacks might be the most important part for me. But really, who wants to be outside moving their body, using extra energy, only to find themselves hungry? Hangry kids are the worst. Bring fun snacks that distract them and give them that extra energy. It also can be used for a fun break. Let your kids find a good spot to sit and break. While they are snacking, look around and see what fun things they can find!
Have the right gear. Backpack, baby carrier, hip pack, water bottles or Camelback, rain pants, gloves, all the things! Do any of your kids need extra diapers? A small first aid kit is always a must for the bigger adventures. Extra pair of clothes for any kids who tend to come home head-to-toe wet or muddy. It doesn’t have to be a lot of gear, keep it simple. Just figure out what the musts are for you and your crew!
9. Finally, Slow Down
I’m pretty terrible at this but it's been a goal that was forced on me. I don’t rush our kids on our walks or other outdoor adventures if there isn’t a time crunch. I let the kids explore, take breaks, stop to tell me something, race ahead, and race back. Whatever it is. Kids don’t like being rushed, so slow down and really help them just enjoy being outside. My favorite is looking back and seeing my daughter squatting down looking at something on the ground, or seeing my son looking up in the trees and pointing out his favorite bird.
Getting our kids outdoors can feel like a huge challenge but once you get your kids to love being outside the new challenge is trying to get them to come back in!
Like this post? Check out Lo Rivas' Top 5 Tips For Baby’s First Trip
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