Outdoor Education: Teaching Kids About the Outdoors
We live in an age full of technology and screens. As a result, many people, especially children, are spending less time outdoors. Even when they do go outside, they are typically still just staring at a screen and not appreciating or engaging with their surroundings. This could be due to a lack of interest or a lack of outdoor education. The good news is that both issues could be rectified by the parents. If you don’t show any interest in the outdoors, your child probably won’t either. Spend some time with them outdoors and try to nurture a love for it in them, even if you don’t have one yourself. It will be good for their happiness and well-being and once they get that outdoor “bug”, it’s typically something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. So, to help you on your way, here are some tips to help you give your kids an outdoor education.
Do Your Own Research
Get a field guide with all the various plant and animal species in your area to start becoming familiar with them. It’s important to be familiar with any potentially dangerous things like poison ivy or venomous snakes, so you can help keep your kids safe when exploring. Also, look for fun facts that impress your kids and get them more excited about their surroundings. Are there any edible plants in the area? Any animal or plant species that are native to your area, but not many other places? Are there hiking trails that have been used for centuries with an interesting history of their own?
Start Exploring Your Backyard
Now that you have a better knowledge base about the area yourself, its time get your kids involved and pass on what you’ve learned. The best place to start? Your own backyard! This can be your specific fenced-in yard, or any place that is walking distance to your home like a park or nature reserve. Make it fun and engaging by using your field guide to identify nearby plants, trees, flowers, etc. or creating a scavenger hunt for your kids. If they won’t put the phone down, use it to your advantage! Let them bring it with and take pictures of various things on your outdoor adventures, then have them consult the field guide when you get home to identify what they saw. You can also set-up a tent in your yard and let your kids experience what it’s like to sleep outdoors.
*Don’t forget to get some magnifying glasses and binoculars for your kids to use. This will really help with things at a distance, like birds and to see details of smaller things like bugs*
Expand Your Horizons
Now that you’ve spent time exploring your area, you should have a better feel for what your kids enjoy about the outdoors and can plan longer trips accordingly. Weekend camping and hiking trips are great for 1-2 people or the entire family. This will also help them practice the skills you’ve been teaching them (pitching a tent, starting a fire, lacing hiking boots, cooking outdoors, etc.) at home in more of a “real-world” setting where the stakes are a little higher. Ruining your camp meal in the backyard isn’t that big of a deal, because you have a full kitchen at your disposal only feet away. Ruin it when you’re out in the wilderness and you just might be going hungry that night!
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