Getting Your Kids Outdoors
The older I get the more I enjoy getting outside. I love being able to get away from my desk and go for a walk, hike a new trail or even attend a new event. Even in the winter months, I try to get out as much as I can even though the cold gets to me faster now than it did when I was a teenager. But I always enjoyed being outside. As a kid I remember riding bike all summer long, bailing hay with my grandfather and playing as much ball as I could. Even after I finally got my first gaming system, I still would rather be outside. That’s why it’s been so important to me to make sure I get my own children get outside. But why is that important? Why should you encourage your kids to get outside? I have a few reasons why I think it’s important to share my love of outdoors with the next generation.
Today’s kids are busy. My kids are a lot busier today than what I was at their age. Between homework, piano lessons, swimming lessons and every other thing kids get involved in, their lives are busy. Which makes it even more important to get our kids outside and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. What we can teach our kids about being outdoors is something that they will be able to take with them throughout their lives.
SOMETIMES THE BEST EDUCATION COMES WITH FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE
Some people learn through reading or watching videos and others learn from just getting their hands dirty and discovering things themselves. One of the reasons I enjoy hiking with my kids is seeing how much they take things in. Whether it’s a simple trail or we are viewing a waterfall, just being a part of nature peaks their natural curiosity. And once they have an interest in where we are or what we are seeing the questions usually aren’t far behind. I don’t always have an answer for their question, honestly, I usually don’t, but the fact that they are asking and are showing an interest is a great thing. I really love when we hike a trail with information markers about an area. We always take the time to stop, read and explore the area around us. Not only are the kids learning more about Wisconsin, but I am too and with that our appreciation for this state grows. Encourage your kids to ask question. Or better yet, get a conversation started by asking them questions yourself. Ask them about why they think the rocks look like they do or what kinds of animals live in these woods. Get them thinking about the areas your visiting. You may be surprised at how quickly they pick up on things and how much they want to know the next time you head out the door and onto the trails.
TIME AWAY FROM ELECTRONICS
I happy to say that my wife and I keep pretty close tabs on our kid’s electronics time. The don’t get any time during the week and very limited time on the weekends. In todays society I think there needs to be a good balance of electronics use. They need to understand how to use and navigate a computer, tablet or phone and the programs and apps that come with those devices. But they also need to understand that there is a time and place for those items and venturing outdoors really isn’t one of those times. Whether your kids are just heading out to the backyard to play or your cruising the lakes, make sure they leave the electronics behind. I know that this one is tough, even for me. I take my phone with me all the time, most of the time it’s the only camera I have with me. But I make sure to only pull it out when I want to capture a moment. I’ll even wait to share on social media until later so I don’t get caught up in the social media storm. I think this is where we as parents or relatives can set that great example. Put your phone away and ask them to do the same. Teach them to be in the moment and enjoy what’s going on around them. There’s always time to share photos or return non important text messages later.
TEACHING YOUR KIDS ABOUT THE OUTDOORS WILL MAKE THEM BETTER CONSERVATION
I think this is one of the more important reasons to get your kids outside. Teach them how to care for the outdoors and respect the outdoors. If you hunt with your kids, they learn about deer management. If you hike with your kids, they learn about trail etiquette and helping others. If you camp with your family, they learn about leaving an area the way you find it and keeping their footprint small so others can enjoy the same beauty you did. They learn to take care of this wonderful state and in the future, they’ll teach others how to take care of it as well. Some of these lessons learned in the outdoors they’ll be able to use in other parts of their lives as well. So share what you know and teach them how to care for our state. If you see trash on a trail, pick it up and explain why you picked it up. It will help them understand the importance of keeping our state clean and healthy for the next generation.
YOU CAN HAVE FUN
Getting your kids outside isn’t just about teaching them. It’s about having fun too. One thing I want to accomplish with Wisconsin’s Outdoor Explorer is to remove the stigma of, you’re only and outdoors person if you hunt, fish or hike. Getting outdoors can involve a lot of different activities. From watching a parade to attending a festival to watching a baseball game or just sitting next to a lake shore, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re outside. Take your kids to a fair and walk around and see the animals, attend a car show or see a dog sled race. Show your kids that getting outside can be fun and they’ll want to go out and do it again.
Getting your kids outside doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to have some elaborate plan to keep them entertained. Just being outdoors will take care of that. It can be as simple as going for a walk or as big as a day at a water park. Just getting them involve will create memories that you’ll both share years later. Now I know some of you don’t have kids, but maybe you have a niece or nephew or even grand kids that you’d like to share you love of outdoors with. I say make the effort and show them what it’s like being a Wisconsin’s Outdoor Explorer.