Parents, you are an essential individual in your child’s life. The nurturing and encouragement you give your kids facilitates your child’s confidence, development of values and behaviors, and can motivate them to participate or not participate in outdoor activities and to practice behaviors that protect and preserve the outdoors and natural environment. How can you help promote outdoor activity in your child’s life? What are the resources to assist you in providing access to the outdoor activities and opportunities to your kids? What are the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about outdoor activities administered by various organizations? Who can you contact with questions about starting a new program or event?

Why Does It Matter For Your Children To Spend Time In Nature?

Spending time outside in the great outdoors has numerous health benefits, among them improved concentration and focus, a greater ability to engage in creative play, helps minimize the symptoms of depression and aids in the treatment of mental illness (in particular ADHD), and exercise that is unstructured and unorganized to also facilitate the use of different muscles and developing a different kind of endurance, rather than what are used and developed through organized sports. Children who spend more time outside experiencing the great outdoors develop better motor fitness and coordination, especially in balance and agility. Children also develop both intellectual and emotional intelligence from spending time outdoors; they tend to develop a healthier emotional awareness and internal perspective, greater mental sharpness and quickness, imaginative or inventive, and sustained intellectual development. According to the Washington Post there are 10 ways to help you (as a Parent) get your children outside, they are:
1. Inspire curiosity by being curious yourself

If you have ever wanted to know something about the great outdoors where you live, take your child with you or ask the question of your child. Find the answer together. Inspiring and creating enthusiasm for the great outdoors will help your child become more curious and aware of their natural environment.

2. Simply be outside in the great outdoors without any distractions

Just be outside with your child, do not feel like you have to “teach” your child something. Simply enjoy the moments outside with your children. Find a spot near a creek and encourage your child to just sit down and observe nature at its best. You and your child may observe wildlife engaging in their natural uninterrupted activities.

3. Limit the use of electronic devices while in a vehicle

We are constantly consumed with technology. While you are transporting your child to an event, a practice, or you are on a long road trip, encourage your child to look outside and see what they can see—play the “I spy” game or create a car Bingo game where your child has to spot things and mark them off on a card in order to reap a reward at the end of the drive. Limit the use of your child’s consumption of technology while commuting to an event or a destination.

4. Seek out outdoor spaces that are undisturbed and go back to them often

Find a spot, an open field or a meadow, that you and your child can go to be quiet and together. Encourage being quiet and introspective. Encourage your child to engage in capturing scenic views in their mind and remembering them so if they ever need a quiet spot, they can recall you and your child’s place. Visit it often to make your own traditions.

5. Make time for unstructured outdoor play

Get outside and explore various areas. If you have uncleared land nearby, go explore it. Make sure you are not trespassing, but get outside and explore with your child the various outdoorscapes Pueblo, Colorado has to offer, e.g. parks, mountains, lakes, etc.

6. Stop thinking about getting outdoors as leisure time

Stop thinking getting outdoors as something to do when you have time to do it. Just do it. Make it part of your daily or weekly schedule of things to do. This will help your child understand it is important to do and engage in outdoor time throughout the week. This will also ease your daily / weekly stresses by engaging in outdoor fun or experiences with your child regularly.

7. Read and discuss things about the great outdoors with your child

Pick up some nature books at your local library, borrow or make copies of Natural Geographic articles from the magazines. Discuss them with your child. Get them aware of their natural environment through reading books and articles— you read it, then have your child read it or vice versa. Discuss it and discuss how you and your child feel about the topic. Do this reading and discussing outside in your yard at your spot that is quiet and meant for just you and your child.

8. Plant a garden, personal or community gardens

If you have the space or if you don’t have the space, find a spot to plant some bean plants or some herbs. This will help teach your child about food, the wonder of growth and development, and the responsibility it takes to nurture and grow a vegetable or other foods to be able to eat after they are matured and ripe.

9. Go outside at night with your child to star gaze

Plan some evenings either in your backyard if you can look and see stars from there or find a spot for which viewing stars can be an awesome experience. This teaches your child about infinite space and the majesty of the stars. It also teaches your child the importance of preserving the dark night sky to enable the future enjoyment of stargazing for many generations of parents and children.

10. Get organized and involved

If your child is older, then encourage your child to get involved with your local community. If there is a park, creek, or trees, that need restoring or nurturing, encourage your older child to become an active participant in protecting those natural resources and outdoorscapes.

Resources for You to Use

These are just a few things you can do as a parent to get your child excited about the great outdoors. There are numerous other websites available that can provide more information and assist you with other avenues to pursue with your child. The following are some useful links that can provide you with more information about how to get your kids excited about getting outdoors.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2013/oct/25/tips-get-kids-outdoors

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2016-04-06/richard-louv-on-getting-outdoors

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/tips/g2098/play-outside-47060105/?slide=4

http://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2008/mar/ed_1/

http://www.dirtisgood.com/uk/truth-about-dirt.html