Getting tweens and teens to break away from their MP3 players, cell phones, computers or game systems can be a challenge. For today’s wired teens, it can seem next to impossible. Here are a few tips to help encourage a more balanced lifestyle for the tweens and teens in your world:
10 Tips to Get ‘em Outside:
1. Start when they are young. An obvious tip, but extremely important, is to make sure that the outdoors is part of your family life and your child’s life right from the start. As with anything – from discipline to healthy eating habits – if you wait until the teen years to introduce something, it is going to be an uphill battle.
2. Appeal to the natural interests, whether it’s art, science, sports, or writing. There is an outdoor activity that matches just about any interest, so that’s a great place to start.
3. Get their friends involved. It’s natural for teens to travel in groups and to thrive on social interaction with their peers. It’s all part of proper development. Don’t fight it – harness it. Ask if any of their friends are into outdoor activities and encourage them to join in.
4. Offer to host an outdoor event, like a hiking trip, a camp-out, or a fishing trip for a small group of their friends. Take along a friend or two of your own, so you can be seen enjoying the activity versus acting as a chaperon.
5. Tap into service learning requirements at school. Encourage your teen to look into service opportunities at parks, natural refuges, trail systems, and other outdoor venues that offer service hours and unique opportunities to learn new skills and shadow professionals.
6. Take advantage of outdoor recreation clubs and park and recreation events in your area. You’ll find hikes, kayaking trips, mountain biking clubs, and more. It’s a great way to get older teens involved in a social setting, with a built in safety net of staff from local organizations. Check your local paper or parks and recreation department for opportunities near you.
7. Put that love a technology to good use! Have your teen find podcasts on outdoor topics to help guide their exploration or get them to help you learn how to Geocache. Of course, let the technology help guide the experience, but not replace it. Make sure to tuck whatever devices you are using away to fully immerse yourselves in the natural setting.
8. When school projects come up, help them brainstorm ideas that have an outdoor element, such as stream monitoring, alternative energy solutions, or campus greening projects.
9. Have your teens plan a special family day trip or weekend get-away. Your only input is distance traveled and a cost limit. Let them take the lead and surprise you.
10. Set the example. If you are constantly online for work or pleasure, tied to a PDA, or on the phone, you cannot fault your teen for doing the same. Model balance, and let them see you enjoying doing things outside. Fun is contagious!
Play changes across the lifespan, but it is still vital to tweens, teens, and yes, even grown-ups. A connection with the natural world is a key part to a healthy, happy lifestyle. It might take a little effort to get older kids and teens unplugged, but it is well worth it.
See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru