10 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Love the Outdoors
I'm incredibly blessed that my kiddos would rather be outside than sitting in front of a screen...even when it's snowing and freezing cold! I truly believe their love for the outdoors has trickled down from all our family adventures. And when I say adventures, I don't mean far off excursions to Argentina (though that would be pretty amazing!). Most of our adventures are had fairly close to our home in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Now, I follow lots of travel families on Instagram and admire their life changing trips all over the world where they tote their little ones with them and make it look so easy. But my travel experience with my children has not been easy, in fact, at times it was FAR from easy...all I can say is, it was worth it. Luckily, we've learned some tips along the way to make traveling/adventuring/hiking with kiddos a little easier and I'm here to share those with you! Some tips may not apply to your lifestyle or the current stage your little ones are in, but I hope you find at least some of these helpful.
Me and my babies
1. When packing/getting ready for your adventure, don't let them see the frustration and stress...even though you are likely feeling it, especially us mamas.
I don't know how things run in your house but in mine, I'm responsible for packing all the clothes, toiletries, planning snacks, and basically making sure the kids have EVERYTHING they need for the trip. When our kids were little, I'm talking baby/diaper/bottles stage, I found it so stressful to make sure I had absolutely everything my family might need while out exploring. I also have a little issue with overpreparation. My husband thinks I worry too much but I like to be prepared for any issues that might arise. So to help with this issue, I started keeping staple supplies in my daypack. In case you're wondering, my favorite daypack is the Luzon Del Dia from Cotopaxi, you can check it out here. It has plenty of room for anything you might need, it's comfortable and easy to carry, is super cute and colorful, and the company is one you can stand behind (see my Cotopaxi review here) . I won't get into my family's staple daypack supplies in this blog post but keep an eye out that in a future post. Having my bag already partially packed with necessities majorly decreased the stress and preparation for a fun day adventuring. With my stress decreased, I was able to enjoy the time with my family instead of worrying if I had everything we needed and my kids didn't have to see mama get all frantic and mad at daddy....which nobody wants to see (especially daddy)!
2. Take their favorite snacks...no brainer here. Our kiddos know that we get to have a picnic when we get to the top of the hill or mountain. It helps keep them motivated to continue hiking which can be an issue when hiking with littles. Obviously you can stop for snacks at any point during the hike, most of the hikes we do as a family are short enough that my kids can wait until we reach the top or halfway point.
3. Start a camping/hiking tradition...my kiddos know that we take the hammocks if we go hiking/camping and they get to pick the spot where we set it up. My 6 year old loves to find the perfect hammock spot and he knows it needs to have some shade and a view...I taught him well!
4. Play games along the trail. A couple of our favorites are "I Spy" where one person picks something they can see and the others guess what it is, "Guess What" where one person picks an object and tells the category i.e., "guess what animal I'm thinking of" and everyone else has to ask questions to figure it out, and of course...pinecone soccer!
5. Involve them in decision making for which path to take. My son loves to be "the leader" and it's fun to teach him how to pick the trails and to navigate and watch for signs along the way.
6. Incorporate your family values. We try and teach our kiddos to be kind and have compassion for others, to think outside of their own personal life to what others may be dealing with. One of the ways we like to spread a little joy is to leave painted rocks along the trail for other hikers to find. The kids love to paint pictures on the rocks and make up little messages to help "spread joy" to our fellow outdoor lovers.
7. Read books about kids on adventures, nature, animals etc. Here's a link to a few examples from Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/6-picture-books-to-get-your-kids-hiking/
8. Hike/camp with a group, you know the saying, the more the merrier, same rings true for outdoor adventures. We joined a group through our church called Adventure Families. It was fun to meet new people and the kids had a blast running the trails with all the other kids. Fellowship and worship in the outdoors is just something that can't be beat.
9. Geocaching. Who doesn't want to be a treasure hunter? One of my favorite local magazines, Black Hills Parent, has a great article about geocaching, you can check it out here!
10. And last, but certainly not least, let them see their parents love for the outdoors. My kids look at my face when we reach the top of a hill, they see me taking in my surroundings, breathing deeply and soaking up every inch of scenery and they know I'm in love!