1. Work on your beliefs- Create a firm belief that suits your personality
We are all different as people, and as parents, but I have a hunch one thing binds us all;
a belief wedged somewhere at the back of our minds that getting outdoors is good for us.
But we get distracted by life; busy jobs, homework and energy sapping home-life, not to mention any number of extra-curricular commitments for our families that we ploughed our time into in a pre-Covid 19 world.
Personally, I could go days without going outside my house, other than transitioning from the car to the backdoor, head buried in work and the multiple things to do. And when I did go out, it was to exercise - which typically involved rushing past the nature around me.
So my first port of call was to work on myself!
I found out why playing outdoors, in Nature, benefits my children so much and is worth the effort https://www.naturedays.ie/why-outdoors.
And I also discovered, and latched onto, the idea that our kids playing outdoors more is a key part in the global challenge with Climate Change.
Because if we help our kids connect to Nature in their youth, they will have the empathy needed to protect their planet & Nature as adults.
This is what motivates me now to tempt my children outdoors, even when the immediate reaction is “No, that’s lame”. This is why I actively encourage them to play outdoors like they used to as small children, and why I will keep trying to pass on my respect and love of nature to them.
Because I am crystal clear about one thing -
I am the gate keeper to the kind of connection and respect my children will have for Nature in their childhood and that will have a direct impact on their future lives.
It's up to me to give Nature to my kids.
I'm no Bear Grylls
But, with that said, the reality is I’m no wild living, off the grid, gal. I like my modern conveniences and comforts too much. I also know from experience that I'm not terrific at sticking to new habits either. I'm just not a stayer when it comes to long term commitments like physio exercises, gym subscriptions or piano practice (who is I'd like to know?) I start off with great intentions, but after a while I tend to slide. I had to face reality that I don’t like to be tied into any one thing for too long.
But now, when my own tendency to conserve energy (AKA my lazy bone) starts to emerge, I'm ready:
I’m armed with a clear belief about what I'm doing, and why.
This belief keeps me on track (and gets me back on track when I topple into the undergrowth ever now and then!)
Set an achievable goal
To reflect my own personality, I also intentionally set a small, achievable goal - something I can’t talk myself out of and one where, once I reach the goal, everything else is a bonus!
For me, I started with:
15 minutes, outdoors in Nature as a family, every day.
Yes, “every day” turns into “most days”, and I let myself off the hook on the days when I just don’t get around to it for whatever reason, but I keep sight of my true intention. This is my baseline -if I hit this target most days in my week, I'm a happy camper.
So, work on your own belief.
Set your belief in stone on the reasons why it is worth the effort to get your kids playing outdoors regularly. Use the Naturedays | Activity Finder in this site to find simple, quick, outdoor activities to try with your kids.
Keep feeding your belief, empowering yourself to stay the course of developing a life long love and respect for Nature in your children. Check out Naturedays | Get Started to find the many reasons why playing outdoors is so beneficial for our kids.
As they run and play spontaneously while outdoors, they are learning untold lessons from the greatest teacher of them all, Mother Nature. It is then we can sit back and feel the good feelings that come from giving our kids one of simplest and most priceless gifts they will ever get in their lives.
2. Set your intention & Create a Strategy
Once you are clear on your belief that getting your kids playing outdoors is a priority for your family, the next step is to create a strategy for achieving your goal.
Have intention – Create a clear intention of what you want to achieve and place it somewhere visible in your home as a reminder (like your fridge door). An intention is another way of saying "set a goal or target" to reach. Find the easy to use Nature Days Intention Template here Microsoft Word - My Weekly Intention.docx (filesusr.com).
Example of Weekly Nature Intentions:
I will make the time to spend 15 minutes outdoors in Nature each day with my children.
I intend to be more attentive and mindful of Nature during my day.
I know I have the time needed to connect myself and my family with Nature.
I know my family is benefiting from our deepening connection with Nature.
Start - The next part of the strategy is simply to START. Don’t put off getting your nature dose until you have a chance for a big family day out, or longer time in a park. Instead start to notice and embrace the simple nature that’s around you in your home, around your home and in your immediate area. This is where your nature connection will truly begin today.
And the "right people" for your children is you!
Set yourself up to succeed – Don’t sabotage yourself by mindlessly piling on activities for you and your family each evening. Instead stay mindful of your priorities and leave space in your day for the family outing, however short.
To be successful at reaching any goal, I find I must have intention - rather than letting it drift aimlessly around my mind with the rest of the "I must's".
The key to success in my experience is setting a small goal, and reaching it with small, consistent actions.
So, don’t bite off more than you can chew at the beginning (by promising all sorts of high octane adventures to tempt the kids out of the house), which you can’t back up as the weeks go on.
Keep it local, simple and achievable using the Activity Finder on this blog.
Stack Your Habits - Tie your action to an existing habit
One good tip for creating new habits is to tie your new habit to a well established habit - in an approach known as “Habit Stacking”.
Habits like going to the bathroom, eating, brushing your teeth, getting ready in the morning or getting ready for bed at night are well engrained in your adult life by now. The trick is to stack on a small new action to these engrained habits and you might start to associate one with the other.
So for example:
Intention: Be more attentive and mindful of nature during my day.
Start to look out the window at the birds while brushing your teeth.
Bring the kids with you when putting out the bin and check in with the weather, the birds, any animals nearby etc.
Find more strategies for Nature intentions and tips for making new habits here https://www.naturedays.ie/3-easy-steps-to-nature
Don't worry if some days things don’t work out as planned. I have a deep well of nature based activities, TV, and online resources in the Indoor Activity Finder. Your kids can still connect with Nature, or be inspired with stories, while indoors.
Our own resistance
I try not to be put off by my own resistance when it comes to setting my intention. Maybe you feel you don’t know enough about the outdoors to get involved with your kids in Nature, or are too overwhelmed with daily life to even start thinking of changing your schedule to bring in something new. Perhaps you may have no interest in the outdoors yourself and so have little motivation to pass on an interest to your kids. Whatever the resistance, you are not alone. We all have some and in bucket loads at times.
But try not to let this personal resistance define you and influence the reality you want to create for your own family.
Don’t beat yourself up if things don't go to plan for a day, a week or longer. Life happens. Just try to remember that a short ramble outdoors could be just the antidote you need to the tension headache building behind your eyes, or the exhaustion at the end of a working day.
Even a few minutes out in the garden on your own, or sitting on the door step, can put everything into perspective and shift your mindset.
3. Focus on progress
When you set your goal small and achievable, you will be achieving daily success without barely trying after just a short while. You can then build on this achievement as you begin to find more and more opportunities for Nature in your lives. And the good news is that your children will quickly take over where you start. They will regain their love of the outdoors quicker than you think, once you stick to your intention to connect your family with Nature.