Getting your children outside and enjoying nature is a special experience, but it can be so difficult to motivate them and yourself to get in the park or the wilds to get some fresh air.
We asked Bush-craft expert, survivalist and Scout Ambassador, Megan Hine, for some advice on how to make the most of the great outdoors and why it’s so important
‘I want to take my children outside, but I don’t know how’.
A question/statement I hear over and over from parents. The first time I heard this I was so surprised it made me rethink the way I saw the world. I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who loved being outside and encouraged myself and my siblings out at any opportunity no matter the weather.
As a parent, if you did not grow up playing outside and have discovered enjoyment in the outdoors later in life, of course, it is a scary place. The unknown and the new always is, so please don’t feel guilty for feeling these emotions. It is never too late!
The outdoors, without doubt, provides therapeutic benefits. I have seen the profound effects too many times with clients, both adults and children I have guided for it to not be true. Over and over I have seen people have literally life-changing experiences outside. I still receive emails from children, now adults, who I guided over 10 years ago. The fact that they are still talking about the trip and the effect it had on their lives even after all this time is humbling.
Other benefits of getting outside with your family include;
sharing experiences and creating memories with your children is an incredibly powerful tool for bringing people together that they will grow up remembering. These sorts of shared experiences can shape their future relationships with others and their own children one day.
Getting to know the incredible human your child is becoming;
There are so many distractions in everyday life and both children and adults have ever-busier schedules. This can mean that quality time together not rushing between sports and social commitments can be limited. Sharing these outdoor adventures with your child will allow you to see their personality shine through. It is also a great time for your child to share their fears, frustrations, hopes and joys with you.
Understanding the world around them;
Exposing children to the outdoors helps give them an understanding of our world. From nature and natural cycles to life and death and the seasons, so many connections can be made between the natural world and their everyday lives. It can also help when encouraging them to switch off their lights to save power etc. When you can put into context the consequences of their actions and they visibly see the effects of pollution such as plastic on the world they are growing to love.
Building confidence, creativity and initiative;
The outdoors is a blank canvas for play and exploration. It is becoming harder in everyday life now for a child to express themselves creatively. The outdoors can become a place where a child can learn more about themselves, what they enjoy. It encourages imagination and offers an escape from bullying, stress and anxiety
Here are some tips for getting out and enjoying nature and the outdoors with your children:-
On your terms.
The outdoors is an incredible place, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. You can enjoy it at your own pace whether that be a gentle stroll through nature or a mountain biking adventure. You can build up to more exciting and longer adventures if you wish, as your own confidence grows. Don’t let your concerns stop you. If you are really nervous there are courses and activities, you can attend with your children which will give you a great start and some great ideas for activities. For example, parent and child Bushcraft courses, Go Ape, assault course in the trees.
Let the children lead.
Letting your children dictate the way their exploration of nature occurs not only shows your trust in them, but it will fascinate you how they view the world in a way you may have forgotten. The things children spot in nature and the stories they create, the imaginary worlds they can see will have time passing so quickly. If they are struggling initially to play, find somewhere in the woods you can build a shelter or go animal tracking, searching for animal tracks in muddy areas or jump in puddles.
Display their treasures.
It never ceases to amaze me what children collect when out and about. A bedraggled feather, a random pebble, the skull of a bird. Something about those objects made it special to your child. Allowing them a place to display these treasures in their room keeps the memories and the magic alive.
This is a term thrown around a lot at the moment. It is something I truly believe in. How often now do you see a family in a restaurant with all members sat on their mobiles? Social interaction is key for healthy human development and for learning important communications skills for the future. Turn phones to airplane mode and give your whole attention to your children and the world around you. I guarantee that with practice you will discover peace in these moments.
It’s never too late.
Yes, it may be harder to encourage older children away from their computers, but it is not too late to get them out. Find something fun to do together; indoor climbing, give your local climbing wall a call and book a climbing session. Hire mountain bikes, the forestry commission have centres all over the UK now which have purpose made mountain bike routes of different levels that are easy to follow and well maintained. Companies like GO Below in Snowdonia offer adventurous mine trips where you zip line through vast caverns.
Harness your children’s natural curiosity.
It is natural for your child to want to explore the world around them and test the boundaries of that world. Remember when they were around 2 years old and constantly pushing your buttons? That was them learning your boundaries and what they could and could not do within their world. If you can harness that curiosity you will learn just as much as them. If you want some easy info on plants, animal, tracking, stars and much more to start you off, the Field Council offers some brilliant, waterproof fold-out charts.
Best of luck on your adventures!