3 Easy Steps to Nature
Sometimes, it can be hard to know where to start with something and so we carry on as we were, still vaguely unhappy with how things are.
Many parents are dissatisfied with the amount of time their kids play outdoors each week, especially as they get older and have started school. And this concern comes from a place of knowing it will do them good in so many ways to get outside, away from screens and indoor distractions. They'll be in a better mood, have a better appetite, sleep better at night and be more physically active- and they're just the obvious benefits Naturedays | WHY OUTDOORS?.
I have written a blog on this topic Creating Time For the Outdoors (naturedays.ie) which may help you understand why getting your kids outdoors is so important for their development. Yes, it will take some determination at the beginning, but before long (and I'm talking only a few days) your family will be outdoors more and feeling real positive improvements in all your lives as a result.
My strategy for starting the outdoors habit for your family has 3 steps:
1. Set your Intention
2. Use the Activity Finder
3. Focus on the Progress
Step 1: Set your Intention
Whenever I set a new goal, it really helps to be specific about what I want to achieve. If we make a deliberate choice to get outdoors and make this a priority for our life or our families, we will feel less that it is time wasted or that we should be do something else. Here is where having Intention comes in.
I start by creating my Weekly Intention. This keeps me on track and knowing where I am heading.
Set out clearly the What, When, How Often and Feeling of the Intention:
I am specific in naming exactly what I want to achieve.
* Get my family outdoors together for 15 minutes.
I pick a specific time (I'm more likely to stick to it when I have allocated a portion of my day to it at the outset).
* After work in the evening.
I am specific about how often I will carry out my new action. (This could be daily, every few days, on weekend days or whatever suits your family.)
* Each evening this week.
I chose every evening for my first week as I wanted to take advantage of repetition in the beginning.
Finally, I clearly identify how I want to feel for the week ahead.
* I want to feel more connected with my family.
You can find the Weekly Intention template here to start your own intentions.
Use a visual cue as a reminder of your intention- like a potted plant on the kitchen counter or your Weekly Intention on the fridge.
Involve your kids from the beginning in making the Weekly Intention - this makes you all accountable to each other. Keep it simple and achievable!
The focus of the Weekly Intention, or how you want to feel during the week ahead, may change over time. Just go with what feels right for you at that moment.
Dealing with resistance
Your kids may resist at the beginning. I used 3 main tactics to get the show on the road for my family:
They can bring their bike, scooter, dolls, tractor, a ball, music or whatever they chose - once it was safe to do so with traffic etc. The main objective is to get outdoors so whatever helps with that was fine by me. The only rule was no phone!
I packed a small picnic for once we reached our destination. They can make up their own snack box, whatever works for you, but I try to avoid getting into bribing them with sweet treats.
Depending on the level of resistance, I play around with a Reward System for my eldest child. Understandably, he will be bored on a plain old walk so I factor that in. He can earn credits towards something he might want to do at a later stage as a way to motivate him out the door at the beginning. This will not appeal to everyone's parenting style so do what suits you and your values as a parent. I deal with this approach further in 11 Tips for Getting your Teens Outdoors.
Step 2: Use the Activity Finder
This blog has an Activity Finder which is building towards a deep well of activity suggestions for your family. You don't need to reinvent the wheel here, use this resource to take the thinking out of getting started.
Kids need challenge, joy and amusement from their activities. Use the Activity Finder to get the fun factor into your time outdoors.
Step 3: Focus on the Progress
Getting outdoors more as a family, and gradually encouraging your kids out on their own, is a marathon not a sprint. It’s about making a change to how we live our lives for the long term. So my advice is to bite off a manageable commitment at the beginning.
Set yourself up to succeed - Small Time Commitment + Accessible Location = Achievable Goal!
Take the 7 Nature Days Challenge as a way to kick start your family, with the thinking done for you.
Or set your Weekly Intention to follow for the first weeks and get started in a way that is convenient and easily achieved. The repetition over a week can go a long way towards engaging your kids with spending time outdoors.
Doing both of these as a family in the first week is a powerful tool - our kids just want to spend time with us and be noticed, even the teens.
It won’t always go to plan. Life gets in the way and we get distracted away from our best made goals and intentions. But, try to focus on the progress you and your family are making, however small that may seem. Even using this site is a positive step for your family and I congratulate you on giving yourself and your family the time in nature it will hopefully bring.
The Last Word
For some people not having a plan is what will work best. As you get into the swing of things, you may welcome the choice of making things up as you go along and naturally use your own intuition for what to do outdoors with your kids (with the Activity Finder as your secret weapon). I assure you that once your kids are having fun outside, they are hard wired to want to do more and you should see the progress with your own eyes!