Child’s play: Introducing children to the world of adventure

5 ways to get kids into the outdoors—and keep them there

With hovering adults, scheduled play dates and ever-present electronics, it’s hard to deny today’s bubble-wrapped youngsters need a little adventure in their lives. Sure, we all can’t be like previous generations, when parents let kids juggle knives while jumping a dirt bike over ravines. But there is a middle ground where children can explore the natural world, test their limits and maybe even—gasp!—risk a skinned knee or bruised elbow. Here are a few tips for introducing kids to outdoor adventure.

kid

Prepare

Bring plenty of snacks and drinks, plus warm clothes, rainwear and bug spray. You might be able to tough it out, but to enjoy the outdoors, kids need to be comfy and well fed.

Plan

Focus on their agenda, not yours. Think of yourself as their guide—you may have places or goals in mind, but let the youngsters’ stamina and level of enthusiasm set the pace. It really is more about the journey.

Empower

Having their own equipment makes kids feel grown up, and part of the team. So supply them with a fishing rod or pocketknife or compass—whatever—and teach them how to use it. Then leave them to it.

Camp

Nothing lets kids really experience the outdoors like actually being out there. Start with daytrips, and gradually work up to car camping before finally hitting the backcountry. In time, nature will surpass the likes of TV.

Let go

Independence forges confidence. Set age-appropriate boundaries and turn your kids loose to explore out of your sight. If you absolutely need to maintain contact, get some walkie-talkies (which, of course, kids love).