When children are toddlers it is so easy to get them outside, the mere mention of “let’s collect leaves” and they have a fit of excitement and run for their wellies.
When kids get a bit older any mention of moving 3 feet from the playstation or computer screen is met with ‘that’ face and the awwww groan.
If you force children to go for a family day out in the countryside you will usually have a tiring day of dragging a miserable faced kid around, who will say no to anything you suggest out of sheer protest.
Trudging along for hours may be your idea of fun but for most children it is mind numbingly boring, so they need something to distract them.
The trick to getting children outdoors, without force or bribery, is to get some gadgets. Kids are just dying to show adults they can ‘do stuff’ and are in fact better than adults at it.
Take for example a simple walk, the very word walk will often be met with a screwed up face and moaning. Now change the word walk for hiking, mounaineering or orienteering and it takes on a whole new perspective, for a start it involves gadgets.
Letting on that you don’t know how to map read so really hope you don’t get too lost gives them the incentive to ‘take charge’ and show you how it’s done.
You don’t have to spend a fortune and buy the best gear, you can get a simple map reading compass from ebay for £2 or £3, print a map off the net and away you go. They don’t need to learn map reading, just use a marker pen on the printed map to show them the route and then let them play with the compass to find which direction you are walking in.
If they enjoy it and want to learn more about map reading then try this beginner guide to map reading and don’t take charge, let them learn and show you on your next walk what they can do.
Asking them what clothing they think you need to wear because the weather may change suddenly on a fell or mountainside and a simple walk has just become an adventure.
Knowing your route is important but it doesn’t matter if they stray from the route as long as you can keep a landmark in vision, just let them get on with it and don’t constantly tell them they are doing it wrong. If they are wildly off route just say that this land is private so you better find a way round it and then lead them back toward the right route.
Dig out the old camping stuff you have in the shed or borrow some from a friend, then sit in the middle of the floor hopelessly trying to put the gas stove together and see how long it takes them to decide they can do it.
As soon as you get their interest get them involved, ask them for their opinion about what equipment you will need, where you should go or even ask them to look up places of interest to visit in the area you plan on going to.
Another way to persuade kids to get involved is to start training for something yourself. Let’s say you are planning a weekend at the Lake District but know the kids are going to be a pain about going.
Make it about you not them, specifically exclude them in your new ‘training plan’. Sit on the living room floor and imitate rowing, start reading a book about yachting or search for boating tips on the internet and make sure you speak to everyone about canoeing or boating while your kids are in ear-shot .. wait for them to ask what you are doing.
Don’t tell them until they are fit to burst, then say you are planning to try canoeing or sailing, say “I” not “us” and try to get their interest. You know what kids are like, if you tell them they can’t do something then they want to do it all the more.
If you live within driving distance of a farm or smallholding, make friends with the farmer and discuss your cunning plan to get the kids away from the telly and enlist his help. Tell your kids one day you need to go and help your friend (the farmer) to move his sheep because he simply cannot get them from one field to another.
You and the farmer stand in a field and make a big play of being unable to do it, stop for a rest and ask your kids to have a go. Once they manage it they will be full of pride and want to try something else .. that is when you can start to get them outside regularly.
If you live in a city do something simple, don’t buy a kite just make one. A walk in the park is boring for kids but things like kite flying or radio controlled boats or planes add some interest and fun by means of gadgets. Your children get fresh air and they don’t notice they are away from the playstation.
Don’t plan anything too arduous, remember all those times you wanted to get fit and threw yourself in the deep end then soon gave up .. same will happen with kids.
If anything start small and leave them wanting more, then when they ask to do more start making plans with them, ask where or what they would like to try next and you will soon find yourself and your children are regularly outdoors.