How to Keep your Tween or Teen Interested in the Outdoors
Not only does it take some major prep to getting outside with 4 kids, it’s even more challenging keeping my older ones falling into the eternal sunshine of the bored mind. I am grateful all of them are such great sports when mom and dad want to go on hikes every chance we get. Growing up in the digital age, their biggest challenge as young people (I think) is how to keep loving nature while utilizing technology. The good news is we live in a hiking mecca! Here are some ways that have kept them enjoying the outdoors still.
Bring the cell phone
They see us snapping photos all the time when we’re outdoors and documenting our experiences, so why shouldn’t they? There’s hardly any service in most areas we hike at so they only use them for photos, anyway. Freaking out every time they pull out their phone is unnecessary and when the hikes over, we get to see all the cool photos they took. When we geocache, sometimes we’ll ask them to research maps and areas where we can look for them.
Don’t constantly make them watch the littles
If you’re a family of multiple ages then you know exactly what this means. We have to catch ourselves asking our big kids to watch our littlest as they are most likely ahead of us on the trail. Our littlest naturally will always want to do what the big kids do, but that doesn’t have to be the case all the time. Every now again, let the BKs go off on their own to explore without the youngest tagging along. This establishes good boundaries with your littlest (being independent or hang with mom and dad a while) and it allows the BKs to have some alone time away from their little sister.
One thing we found that our older ones really love are when we try a new granola bar or fad snack during our hikes. I brought some new bars on our hike one time and we all took turns taking bites of each one, figuring out which flavor was our favorite. Just doing that together really energizes us mid-hike when sisters have been bickering over who got passed on top of the waterfall. Yea, scary and true story.
Involve them in planning
Before setting out on adventuring, ask them if there’s a particular place they’d like to go or see. Then after you figure out the place, check things like weather condition, terrain, or special features it has. The thing about having technology at their fingertips is they can do all the research and you have all the information you need before you leave. All that is left to do is pack up snacks, water and making sure essentials are ready to go.
We like to give each of our kids designated responsibilities before or during our hikes. These may include:
- cleaning out the truck before we leave
- picking up Gus poop on the hike
- bringing bags for trash
- bringing essentials for Gus
Having responsibilities through our experience I think helps them take ownership of their part they play to us all having a great time. Instead of complaining that they don’t do these things, we remind them that their job and contribution is really what makes our experience outdoors together so fun. Plus bonus points for being such a great example to their little sis!
Look for opportunities to volunteer or advocate together
I really believe that because we try to do some volunteering as a family, this not only teaches them kindness through giving but also teaches them about empathy–you could say these same values are honored outdoors. We can’t do this all the time but if we can’t volunteer, we go on walks and pick up trash in our neighborhood. The other thing we try to be more conscious of is their involvement around issues they care about. This year we participated in the Women’s March along with the March for Science in our local city. They loved being a part of causes that they faced at school or through conversations with their friends.
We are not perfect by any means and often we ask ourselves how we can even hold things together at home/work/school, let alone outdoors because tweens + teen–oh, and toddler. But it is doable and more importantly, it is manageable. We work tirelessly to figure out what works or what doesn’t work all while respecting the fact that there is an array of personalities that are changing with each season.
What are your challenges you face in keeping your kids in love with the outdoors? We want to hear what’s worked or not worked. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.