One of the best ways to ensure that your kids stay active and healthy is to instill a love for the outdoors. If you find yourself having to kick your kids out the door to keep them away from the TV and computer, try these ideas to make being outside and enjoying nature a more regular, effortless part of your kids’ lives.
1. Teach them how to have fun outside
When my boys were younger, the complaint I heard constantly was, “But there’s nothing to do outside!” I realized that I needed to show them some of the fun that was out there to be had, so we spent time camping, fishing, riding bikes, and playing simple outdoor games.
Kids don’t instinctively know all the traditions and culture that grown-ups take for granted, but by teaching them to be capable outdoorsmen-and-women, dads can alleviate some of the struggle of pushing them to play outside. If you’re a little insecure in your outdoor skills, make technology work for you – there’s an endless supply of online resources for you and your kids to develop wilderness skills.
2. Make the natural world a place for learning
Kids love to learn about the world around them – and the more you understand about nature, the more exciting it becomes. My boys love Animal Planet, but it took some work to convince them that the plants and animals in their proverbial backyard were as interesting as what goes on in Africa or the Amazon. For them, the turning point was the anthill in the backyard. When we talked about the way ants socialize and communicate, and the billions of connections that they need to survive, suddenly our backyard was a pretty cool place to be.
Project Noah is a good resource for teaching kids about local wildlife – it provides fun facts and identifying characteristics for thousands of animals, and even allows kids to contribute to ongoing zoological research.
3. Find what’s exciting about your part of the world
Even if you don’t have big mountains or beaches in your neighborhood, there’s always something beautiful to discover. It might take a little more work if you live in an area without a lot of natural green-space, but you can check Google Earth, or your state’s park listings for information on the closest wilderness areas. Kids are great at finding natural wonder, so it doesn’t need to be the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls—a local creek or pond can be enough to get them excited.
4. Love the outdoors yourself
Practicing what you preach may be the hardest part about getting your kids outside. It’s easy to think that you don’t have time amid grown-up concerns to get out in nature, but it’s tough to impose priorities on kids if you aren’t willing to get involved yourself. Not only will it be easier to get kids outside if they see you enjoying the outdoors, but it will also do wonders for your own peace of mind. Make it a personal mission to spend more time outside; kids don’t push easily, but they love to follow a good example.
5. Have fun backyard activities
The days of letting kids play out in the street until sundown may be behind us, but your backyard can be a great place for kids to play when you can’t be right with them to supervise. Make your backyard a fun place to be; build a sandbox, a swing, or a treehouse.
Most of those projects are a lot easier than they look—a sandbox can be as simple as four railroad ties and a couple bags of sand. You can make swings easily with rope, old benches, and a sturdy bough of a tree. A treehouse is a little bit more work, but you don’t need to be an engineering genius to make it happen. Overall, think about what you had as a kid (or what you wish you’d had), and do what you can to make it a reality for your kids, you can also search up photographer near me online and find a photograph to have a small session with your kids.
[About the author: Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin. Image: Nina Matthews Photography]