Finding new ways to enjoy the outdoors as a family
October 10, 2013

 

As the mother of an 8-year-old, I have heard “I don’t want to do that” on more than one occasion when I suggest an outdoor activity. At first I was distressed, thinking that my son Lucas was beginning to lose interest in all of the outdoor activities we’d always loved to do together as a family and that he would always prefer staying inside to play video games or watch TV. I finally realized that making just a few adjustments to my approach and changing up what we did each week made all the difference. I also found that once we get out the door, Lucas forgets all about the television and games and enjoys himself outdoors just as much as he always did.

Now, we take turns picking our outdoor activity; if we already have an activity in mind, we take turns picking exactly the destination. Agreeing as a family to take turns has eliminated any disagreements so each trip starts on a good note. We also make “rules” on certain weeks challenging ourselves to pick a brand new activity or destination. This has made it really fun for all of us, and sometimes it has even required doing a little research.

I also realized that we didn’t have to go on a huge outdoor excursion each week. We tried doing smaller activities throughout the week, just to get outside and connect with nature in some way. Here are some the new things we have added to our list of activities:

  1. Take evening and after-dark walks. Old routes feel new at night because all of your surroundings are different . Look for constellations and watch the moon. Listen to crickets and possibly spot some different types of creatures like bats or fireflies.
  2. Climb trees. What kid doesn’t love to climb trees? We have a park near us that has some fun, but simple, trees to hang out in. Lucas loves to climb them and swing from the branches. Miles, my toddler, enjoys watching Lucas and exploring all the gnarly roots down below.
  3. Skip rocks and wade in the water. We have a few places that we go to just to sit by the water, skip rocks, and explore the shallows. Two of the best places in our area for this are Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center and Jordan Creek by the Trexler Nature Preserve. This is Miles’s favorite things to do outdoors; he could spend hours near the water. Our dogs also really enjoy it!
  4. Geocache. We have just recently tried geocaching and have decided that we are going to spend more time doing. It involves looking for a hidden “treasure” and is great for older children who can help to read a GPS and search for the cache. It’s also something that you can do almost anywhere. You would be surprised where there are geocaches hidden!
  5. Play outdoor sports. Lucas and I have  continued to run together and it’s been such a positive and rewarding experience for both of us. It gets him outdoors, it’s an activity we can do almost anywhere, and it has been a wonderful way for us to bond. Find ways to share your favorite outdoor sport as a family, whether it’s soccer, cycling, or just a game of Frisbee!
  6. Start a nature journal. While journaling doesn’t always happen outdoors, it is a fun activity that everyone can be involved in that helps you stay connected to the natural world. We bought a large journal and began recording all of our outdoor activities. We write about the things we enjoyed while on our adventures and document silly mishaps or funny stories. Lucas draws pictures, and sometimes we put little objects from our trips in the journal such as a special rock, a feather, or a map. More than just reminding us of why we love the outdoors, the journal reminds us of all the rewarding things we do together as a family.
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