Do you wish your kids would play less video games, watch less television, spend less time in front of a computer screen, and get outdoors more often? I remember being a kid and playing outside every single night after dinner until it was dark. I realize it’s a different world today than when I was growing up but watching kids grow up in the profession I have really scares me to think what we are doing as parents with our children.
I have seen many, many families raise their children in many, many different ways over the past 19 years of offering childcare. I can tell you wonderful stories about wonderful children and I can also tell you very sad stories about some very sad children. However, I feel very strongly that if you are going to call yourself a “parent” than you have the obligation to be the best parent you can be.
What I see and hear most from parents today is,”how do I get my kid to play and get more active?” Well, let’s see. This is really not that hard to figure out…. start young and show them what fun can be had without electricity. Wow, now that is a scary thought, I know, but you can do this. Think back to when you were a kid. What did you do? Ride bikes, play frisbee, jump rope, sidewalk chalk fun, water balloon fights, fly kites, have a treasure hunt, go hiking, run through the sprinkler, go swimming, visit an amusement park, have a picnic, camp in the back yard or at a park, go to the beach, and on and on.
One of the biggest things I can not stress enough is if you want your child to be more active, you need to be a role model for that child. It’s like trying a new food. If your 3 year old watches you try a green bean and dislike it, you can bet they will dislike it also. That is, if you can even get them to try it after seeing your reaction.
Kids of any age can be included in any type of fun at their own level. My family recently took one of my daycare children hiking with us for the day because every Friday she typically helps me pack up whatever we need for the weekend activity my family has planned. After many Fridays of packing our backpacks for Spring hikes she begged to go many times. Finally, we had the opportunity to borrow her on a Saturday and I can not tell you how very excited she was to finally go hiking. Now, she is only 2 1/2 and really had no idea what hiking really meant, just that we packed for it and did it often.
Of course, being at that age, we did not expect her to put on many miles, hike any big hills or cliffs or expect her to go for many hours. We adjusted our hike to her level and had one of the best days ever just watching her explore and experience different things. We hiked near a stream that she just had to feel.
We found a few geocaches and called it treasure hunting. She was so surprised to find and open the containers. She had to then go through every item in each one.
We included her in on the packing of her own backpack, she carried her own snacks, and even had her own water bottle. Our hike took hours because she needed to explore everything possible, every weed, wild flower, even bugs. We even stood next to the stream and watched a fishermen catch a big fish. She enjoyed every second and surprised me when she ASKED for nap time. That was when I smiled and thought, mission accomplished. We returned her home and for the whole next week, I heard about our hiking trip.
Now, obviously the older your children are the easier it will be to do things like this with them. Although, the older they are before you start to give them these experiences the more negative feedback you will also get if they have to shut off the video game or computer to participate with you. My advice is to start young.
Do you struggle with getting your kids to have fun in the outdoors?
Do you have any advice for others to try?
Does today’s generation make you wonder what happened to being a child?