Friday, June 16, 2017

Invitation for Adventure: Using Language to Motivate Kids to get Outdoors

You may have experienced your child's hesitation or even resistance to spending time outdoors, in which case the toughest part is usually getting them to go outside at all. Once you are enveloped in nature, children usually lose themselves in exploration or activities, and then it's hard to get them to go home. But how do you convince a kid who thinks it would be funner to play on his iPad, or build with Legos, that they should come along on a hike?

The first suggestion I have is: DON'T CALL IT A HIKE. A child will most likely associate the word 'hike' with arduous, monotone walking. They will drag their feet the entire way. Other examples of language that will be met with resistance and even resentment are, "We have to walk the dogs," "You need fresh air," "You need a break from the computer" "You need to move more," "You can't just watch tv all afternoon!"

Imagine the difference if you say one of the following:

"I need your help building a fort! I've already packed lunch and drinks. Are you ready to go?"

"I found a secret trail that I've never seen before, come along, I want to show it to you. Bring the camera, who knows what else we'll find!"

"I've got a scavenger hunt list printed. I wonder how many of the items we'll be able to find today!"

"The blackberries are ripe. Let's see how many we can pick for making pies!"

"Look, I packed binoculars, a shovel, and a compass. Let's go on an adventure!"

"I've got paper and markers, let's make a map of the park to show Mom/Dad/best friend! We could even bury a little treasure for them to find!"

"Check it out, a new plant and animal guide. Let's go see if we can spot anything from the book. Maybe you'll even find something that's NOT in the book!"

"Here's the GoPro. I'll bet you'll find some cool things to film in the woods!"

"There's fresh snowfall. That means animal tracks! Come on, let's go! I've got hot chocolate and graham crackers in my bag."

"OK, I packed comic books and snacks. Now we just need to find the perfect spot in the forest to enjoy them. I'll bet you and your friends will find the perfect spot!"

All of these are formulated as invitations to share an adventure. These, and others, have worked for me and my son on many occasions. It requires a bit more planning on your part, but approaching time spent outdoors this way can really change the way your child feels about nature. It cultivates a positive association to outdoor activities. Your child may even begin to have ideas of their own, and invite you on a few adventures!

I would love to hear about ways you motivate your kids, so please share in the comments!