In a time when video games rule and the kids know how to use an iPhone better than Steve Jobs ever did, taking your kids outdoors is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity. Locked in classrooms for the majority of the year and forced to learn all of the important things they need to get them through the rest of their school years and into a functional adult life (although we still question the useful applications of a pre-calculus class…), children often lack an appreciation for the great outdoors. What many parents forget is that the outdoor world, the natural world, is just as important as anything their kids will learn in the classroom.
Turning family time into quality outdoor time is a great way to unplug from work, school, and other obligations, and focus on the things that matter most. And if you feel guilty taking time away, do what we do and make it educational.
Ideas for Outdoor Learning
- Pick a destination you’ve never visited. It will be just as inspiring to you as it is to the kids, and you can learn about the location’s history together. National Parks are exceptionally educational and fun to visit. And, if you have a child in the 4th grade, admission is free for one year via the Every Kid in a Park pass.
- Pick a destination you have visited! Yes, exactly the opposite of our previous advice, but think of all the great stories you can share with your children when you visit a location that brings back memories of when you camped as a kid with your family. Our kids love to hear stories of the silly things their parents did as children!
- Learn about the wildlife before you go. Going camping? Taking a hike? You probably won’t encounter bears and might not even see deer (especially if your little ones are talkers!), but count on seeing the smaller wild life in abundance! Squirrels, chipmunks, and birds roam most areas and if you think ahead, you can take along books to identify them. Or, if you don’t object to having a screen along, check out a few identification apps. Many, like the Merlin Bird ID app, are free!
- Most importantly, no matter where you roam or how you choose to spend your time bonding outdoors as a family, make sure that the activities you choose are age-appropriate for your family. Two-year-olds may be more interested in the kinds of snacks in your backpack than they are in the hike you’re taking, and if you’re traveling with young children, expect to take lots of breaks along the way. Introducing your children to the outdoors regardless of age is important, but it will definitely be more enjoyable if you keep in mind what your kids can and cannot handle at their individual ages.
Nothing beats opening your children’s eyes to the beauty and intrigue of the natural world, and a love of nature instilled early leads to a lifetime affair with the amazing outdoor world! So, get the kiddos off their screens and put away the Minecraft. There’s a much better world to explore!
Questions or comments about how to get your family engaged in nature? Feel free to contact us for more information and ideas on how we make it happen.