As a parent, many of us know the frustration of trying to get our kids to unplug and go outside. Whether they’re buried in their iPhone or bunkered down with the xBox, even suggesting going for a hike or spending some quality time outdoors can be met with sighs and groans. There is no doubt that the excessive electronics time has also contributed to host of issues such as increased childhood obesity, irregular sleep patterns, and social and/or behavioral issues.
The Camping and Education Foundation, whose mission is to develop young men and women in body and spirit through wilderness experiences that celebrate a love of the outdoors, recently published 10 tips on how to help your kids unplug and get outside …
1. Get children outside as much as possible.
When out and about with your kids, try to get them out in nature as much as possible. This may include doing the following: sitting outside at restaurants, with weather permitting you can walk to destinations, or plan family hikes at nearby hiking trails.
2. Kick them out of the house.
Kids today often want to play indoors (where the electronics are); they say there’s “nothing to do outside.” Insist that they play outside—but also, give them the freedom to roam around within boundaries appropriate for their ages, so they can explore and stretch their imagination.
3. Point out the beauty of nature.
When you are outside with your children, point out all the great things that can be found in nature. By showing kids things such as weird plants or cool looking birds, parents are engaging their kids learning of the natural world.
4. Create a scavenger hunt.
Have your kids invite friends over to play and organize a nature-inspired scavenger hunt. Set parameters on where the kids can go to find the items on their list. Then, break them into teams and send them out to race to complete their lists first.
5. Books on the great outdoors.
It is important for children to be reading. Try incorporating books about the outdoors or try reading books that have a diverse or interesting setting in nature.
6. Get help from an expert.
At a certain age parents just are not cool anymore. Rather than trying to explain the perks of nature to a child who just finds you boring, take a trip and enlist the help of an expert at a local state or national park, arboretum or zoo. Give your child the opportunity to learn about the uniqueness and weirdness of nature from a park ranger or zoologist who can inspire their curiosity.
7. Plan your summers with outdoors opportunities.
Whether you plan a family trip to Yosemite or enroll your child in a summer camp that focuses on the natural world, just plan to get them outside. Although your kids might fight you and declare their love for the new and popular theme park, show them that exploring and learning about the world is an adventure.
8. Make an appointment with Mother Nature.
Soccer and gymnastics practice, mom’s night out, school festivals and friend’s birthday parties all make it on the family calendar, why not make a date with Mother Nature as well? If you make the effort to block out time in your family’s busy schedule to spend time outdoors, you will be more likely to follow through on your goal. Be sure to leave all tech gadgets in the car or at home.
9. Plan a weekend camping trip.
Spending a few days and nights in the outdoors can actually be simple to plan, even if your family isn’t an outdoorsy bunch. Retailers like REI rent camping equipment and if you don’t want to sleep on the ground, renting an RV costs about as much as a hotel stay. Remember to keep things simple your first time out. Try packing sandwiches or a meal that can be eaten cold like pasta salad and tackle cooking on a future trip.
10. Discover their interests.
By asking your child and finding out what activities they may be interested in, you can appeal to their interests and give them a say in how they spend their time outside. For example, if your child enjoys climbing or biking, encourage these activities and help cater to their general interest.
Hopefully these 10 tips will help you get your kids off the couch and into the great outdoors. I know that I see a difference in our family when we spend more time outside together. Not only is it great exercise and a nice change of pace from the daily grind, but it build lasting memories and provides us all with a greater application of Mother Nature. For more information on the Camping and Education Foundation or their two premiere summer camps, Camp Kooch-i-ching and Ogichi Daa Kwe, please visit their website: www.campingedu.org.