Ah the school holidays, precious extra time with your little cherubs, or the perilous task of thinking up ways to keep them from spending every minute of the day on their games console. Whichever resonates with you the most, it’s important for us all to encourage kids to spend more time outside. A study in 2016 showed that kids spend less time outdoors than most prison inmates, and 1 in 9 hadn’t set foot in a park, beach, forest or other natural areas in over a year.
So what can we do? How do we get kids interesting in spending time in the outdoors?
MAKE IT FUN
I can’t say it’s that simple, but it should at least help. Nothing made me slump my shoulders and huff more than the words ‘we are going on a family walk’ when I was young. It sounds a bit…boring, doesn’t it? Kids would much rather hear that they’re going on an adventure, a treasure hunt, or to spot animals and exciting things like waterfalls.
It’s time to add some imagination to what we do outside and spark their interest.
Here are a few tips to make the outdoors fun
1. Change the way we speak about the outdoors
The excitement starts with you, you probably remember going out and building dens and forts in the woods. A walk sounds strenuous, it sounds far, it sounds a bit boring, but an adventure? Now you have my attention, no adventure has ever sounded too far, you’d go as far as you need to discover what you’re looking for. That rock formation might look like something, the tunnel on your family bike ride might be a dragon’s mouth, add a little story to your trails and spark their interest.
A little imagination could be all you need to get a little one’s buy-in.
2. Have a destination in mind
It’s difficult to sell just a walk to a young person, but heading out to find a waterfall, forest, the coast, a farm, or to watch the boats on the lake adds a little something extra. If you’ve got something in mind, it can help you discover a walk to get there.
Check out out things to do in the UK category for walks with a feature.
3. Get them involved in the planning
Do a little research of places you think might be fun, maybe print out a photo of landmarks on the way and ask them to choose where they want to go. How about a choice between this waterfall and this forest? Hunting for animal footprints or visiting a castle where Knights used to live.
Help them pack their own rucksack to feel more involved, but don’t overload them. A bag of treats, maybe a pencil and some paper for tree rubbings etc. An adventure is only as good as the adventurer.
4. Find exciting landmarks for along the way
An endpoint is obviously important, something to find or a goal to reach. However, you should be prepared to stop a lot when on a walk or bike ride with a young person. Hunt out interesting places to stop along the way. Curiously shaped rocks, interesting trees, benches for a little pitstop. Don’t tire them out too soon or you’re in for a long day.
5. Turn a walk into a treasure hunt, or nature trail
For younger children, create a list of things to find when you’re out on your walk that you know should be available, or things for them to spot. For older children, why not look into a hobby like geocaching which enables you to explore city and countryside in the search for caches. It’s a great way to add an end goal to a walk.
Litttle rewards (or bribes depending on how you look at it) like a bag of sweets or whatever your child likes can be a good way to keep tired legs moving.
7. Take photos
It’s always good to have something to show from your trips, make sure you get plenty of photos so they can excitedly show their friends and family members where they’ve been. Keeping the element of fun fresh in their mind helps make the hurdle of getting them back outside next time a little smaller.
Looking for something more specific? How about these ideas: