Every child is born a natural explorer. It is up to us, parents, to help them form a warm and trusting connection to our planet.” DG
Nature is the source of inspiration for millions of ideas, and it can be a beautiful source of imagination and growth for young children. It’s like having an endless canvas with thousands of stunning background options you don’t have to pay for and can create memories with. What more could you ask for?
I’m not making this up. It is common knowledge backed by research. Yet, many folks don’t understand the power of formation and transformation the great outdoors offers, especially at an early age. It is the best medicine for any ailment, mental or physical. It is particularly important for young children to be exposed to nature early in life.
Today’s kids won’t learn how to safeguard our lands and waters if they don’t understand their importance and cannot experience their beauty. While technology has advanced to a point where nature can be seen on a computer, its real exquisiteness cannot be viewed on a screen, it must be felt with the heart, seen with the eyes, and touch with the hands, in real life, in real time. There is such disproportion between the time children spend indoors glued to video-games, social media, and the like, and the time they spend outdoors every day. That is the sad reality of our world today, but we can help change that by instilling nature oriented values on our kids from an early age.
Outdoor environments allow children to experience a greater sense of freedom not possible indoors. Troubleshooting proper camp setup cannot be fully achieved indoors, despite a parent’s creativity. Trust me, I tried. We have many rainy days in Florida, and finding ways to build outdoor experiences in an indoor setting can be challenging. Hence, the benefits of interacting with elements in our natural environment should not be underestimated or undervalued, especially for child development.
Being outdoors offers a plethora of experiences to enhance anyone’s life and build character regardless of age or personality type. From a walk on the beach, to skipping smooth rocks on a lake, to kayaking, paddle-boarding, or canoeing downstream on a river, research shows that exposing children to outdoor activities from an early age can have astonishing positive results on their personal and emotional development. Learning about nature and interacting with its beauty can strengthen self-esteem and sense of self, which will help increases self-confidence and self-awareness. Who wouldn’t want their children to grow into awesomely built autonomous creatures that care about our planet and have a greater capacity for taking action? Teaching your children to have a connection with the environment can positively influence their formation and life experiences, forever changing their concern for the environment.
Outdoor settings offer true happiness at a fraction of the cost. Nature is not a indulgence but a necessity for the human mind to find peace. Many communities and organizations are taking giant strides at helping kids experience nature. The choices are almost endless, and most outdoor activities can accommodate families of all sizes, shapes, and tastes. Many parents dread traveling with children, especially those with more than one young child. But outdoors oriented escapes are simpler than most think.
Let’s talk about a few options …
Strapping a backpack full of awesome outdoor survival tools and accessories and heading to take in everything this wonderful planet has to offer is one of the most liberating and inexpensive activities anyone can do. Add your kids to the recipe and you just created a canvas pure of awesomeness where your children can learn from a myriad of outdoor experiences.
From short wilderness trips to taking a stroll through the streets of your city of choice, backpacking with kids can be fun if you are modest with the distance. Depending on your location, you can plan day long or short-timed backpacking trips. Keep in mind all the necessary items for each member of your backpacking team.
If you have small children, then hiking is an ideal activity. With the exception of trains and boats, children tend to tire quickly of vehicles. However, they never seem to get tired when outdoors, and taking them on a hike can turn into an amazing adventure. From forests, to rivers, to oceans, to streams, children love nature. Mine always liked going outside to spot reptiles, insects, and other animals. Raising children who love nature must include a component that teaches them to respect animals.
When hiking with kids, especially young ones, and depending on the location, please be sure to:
- Triple-check the gear packed. Make sure all your family’s essentials have been included. Kids like to snack during hiking trips.
- Keep your kids hydrated, warm/cool, dry, and fed. These are basic needs that can turn your hike into a miserable time if they are not properly met.
- Keep an eye (or phone app) on the weather. Depending on your hiking location, weather can change pretty quick. Getting stuck in the middle of a forest with two small children sucks! If the age agrees, get your kids to learn about weather changes with you.
- Get in touch with your inner child. Make sure you’re building memories with your children. Kids love the journey, the destination, not so much. Marvel their journey with your inner child. They’ll appreciate that.
If your pocket hurts and you can only do shoestring level traveling, do not despair, there’s probably a solution. There is no need to splurge on costly hotels and expensive luggage with wheels when you can rent a camper and buy a duffel bag. Choosing a camper to travel with children helps keep costs such as plane tickets, gas, groceries, etc.
Campers not your thing? There are tons of small and mid-level accommodation choices. When traveling with children it is always good to book something with a kitchen, whenever possible. The ability to prepare meals at your location reduces the costs associated with having to eat out, and it is easier to manage kids locally than publicly. I have two hungry boys, so vacation meal prep at the hotel or camp site is always helpful.
Interacting with mother nature is healthy and cheap. Being outdoors does not require luxury hotels, and the geographical choices are wide-ranging and breathtaking. Adventure planning with small children is not easy. Thinking of planning a trip to Lake Tahoe when getting from the house to the supermarket seems challenging can get your excitement down. But if you plan ahead, research, and prepare yourself and your gear, exposing your kids to the great outdoors and the breathtaking views of our planet will positively impact their growth and development.
Chances are there is some version of an outdoors activity near you, it’s just a matter of ‘getting out there’ and finding it.
Want to help our planet in a BIG way? Get involved with Project Baseline. Be part of the group of people that saves the planet for future generations.
This article was written thinking about the wonderful Ginnie, who is growing up like all children should: FREE.