TEENAGERS & YOUNG PEOPLE
Exam Focus - Nature Days Top 5 Tips For State Exams
Find our top tips for students sitting their state exams - Junior & Leaving Certificate Exams here.
Teen Summer Bucket List
Try out the Nature Days Teen Summer Bucket List to help keep your teens and young people occupied this summer.
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Tap into their interests
If you read through the tips for how to get teenagers outdoors, you will know I suggest tapping into their interests and inviting their friends to join them on outings. But maybe it's hard to tell what their interests are right now, other than hanging with their friends and social media. In that case, a good place to start is encouraging them to try a wide variety of activities, while on the family holiday for example, to see whether they enjoy any one more than others.
Bring the fun
The key for teenagers is that it must be fun and exciting. They also love to test themselves and show how grown up they are, so give them those opportunities when you can. As our children grow into competent young people, they will start to plan their own activities and adventures with their friends. So it's when they are young that we begin to instill the safety skills and knowledge they will need when they try these things on their own.
At first glance, your young persons' interests may seem limited or out of your comfort zone. But when you start to pay attention to what they like, or try new activities together, it might surprise you both to find common ground. If you have a teenager that's high octane and very active, then physical outdoor activities will probably be your first port of call. But, not all teenagers are into sport, or physical activity at all, so try to tailor your plans to tap into their own, individual interests.
Put an outdoorsy spin on their interests
Below, I run through some typical interests and add an outdoorsy nature spin for you. When you start to think in this way too, you will spot opportunities to meet your young person in their interests and get them outdoors in all sorts of random ways.
Make sure to always ask your young person what they are interested in doing. If needed, suggest a few ideas to get the ball rolling and see where that leads.
Let your teenager know you are interested in doing something just for them occasionally, and they will start to think in the same way. Maybe not the first day, but over time they will begin to recognise that you intend to spend time on activities they are interested in and slowly begin to engage with you. Of course, some may appear totally disinterested, even shunning the idea of spending time together, so pick your moment and just gently let them know you care about what they are into.
Food, Cooking & Baking
Suggest foraging for ingredients together & cook something at home later - try berries, elderflower, edible flowers, apples from a nearby orchard, eggs from the nearby farm. You could also suggest visiting farmers' markets, going fishing, cooking outdoors (safely) on a makeshift fire, food festivals, visiting bee keepers or local producers might all interest them. Visit allotments where they can chat to food producers & gardeners. Encourage them to bake, make their own pizza, bread, sourdough, yoghurt, ketchup, butter and experiment with cooking, being sustainable and being self sufficient.
Music & Drama
Bring an instrument, pick a music making app, and take a trip into the forest, beach, down to a river or wild area nearby to capture sounds of Nature to turn into music at home. Try not to berate them for having their beats or ear buds in while outdoors. They may not appreciate nature and the outdoors like you can just yet but they are still benefiting from being surrounded by it.
Outdoor music concerts or festivals are also a great way to connect-if they can stand having you there!
Books & Reading
If your teenager is an avid reader, bring them to some beautiful natural locations to spark their imagination- an old graveyard, ruins, wilderness, forest, wild coast. Start the conversation about using setting and imagery in writing. Go at dusk for extra atmosphere and see where it leads you.
Ask your young person to find somewhere beautiful outdoors that one of their social media heroes visited and you could try to go to the same place. Or suggest going to a beautiful natural location to experiment with some high quality selfie shots. Even better if you find some examples on the social media feed of people they already follow to use as inspiration.
Friends & Connections
Suggest they bring a friend on a trip to the coast, camping, beach, hill walk or a day at an adventure center. You can be there to help if needed, otherwise just let them get on with the activity themselves. Try not to take over or ask too many questions of their friend. They just want to hang out with their friend. During dinner, you can all chat about the day and brainstorm ideas for your next day out.
Fashion & Beauty
Discuss with them about finding ECO alternatives to fast fashion & high street stores. Encourage them to recycle and look into Thrifty, Depop or Useless Project to upcycle, recycle and reuse preloved clothes to help their planet with their fashion choices. Challenge them to an upcycle project with their own clothes, stuff they have outgrown, old furniture around your home, or a garden makeover with recycled or upcycled products. Perhaps they might be interested in trying to make ECO friendly homemade shampoo, moisturizer and face creams or learn about Irish plants in nature they could use to make their own beauty products, candles, bath bombs, soap, cleaning products and more.
Movies & Film making
Apps are your friend here too. For the budding movie maker, like the reader above, bring them to some awesome natural locations and encourage them to use the scenery to make their own short film or stop motion animation film. You could go to see the location of famous movies set in Ireland.
If your teenager loves sport, let them bring their basketball, hurl or football along, running ahead on their own once it's safe. Organise to go to an outdoor sporting event together. Organised after school sports are fantastic but also encourage them to try other sports during the holidays - on land, water, in the air- whatever might interest them. You can do it together too - mountain biking, dirt biking, water sports, archery, sailing & high ropes activities are just a few.
For those immersed in the world of gaming, again like the reading and movie ideas, think about location. Bring them to awesome locations in Ireland and start a conversation about this as a setting for one of their games. How would it work? What features could be used and in what way? Could they imagine a new game based on that setting. What are their favourite types of setting. Many games actually have excellent natural settings as a backdrop too, so ask them about that or watch it together first.
Apps are king here too. Show your teenager you are trying to take beautiful and quirky photographs on your trips, and ask for their help with apps to edit, improve, print etc. See can they pick a favourite app to use for your snaps. What about putting together some digital photo albums or getting an album printed. They may start to enjoy it too. Photography is an excellent way to get us to slow down, really pay attention and be watchful - all so beneficial to us when outdoors.
This interest covers a lot but if your teenager is into crafting, art, jewellery design, pottery, art or creative pursuits, there is an abundance of inspiration from nature in forests, along the coasts, on islands, on our bogs, mountains and wilderness, hilltops, city parks and streets. Encourage them to gather materials outdoors, or get inspiration for their next creation, or you can work together to be creative as a family with Nature Art.
Engage your hands on teens with a challenge to plan to build wildlife habitat, bird house or other hands on creations for your garden. Check out the Time On Your Hands Section for hands on projects your teenager can get stuck into at home.
If you have noticed your young person likes to help out with garden maintenance, then expose them to more gardens, parks, allotments and encourage them to start to grow their own food at home in your garden. Start a plant nursery or visit open gardens for inspiration to take home to your own patch.
It is always a great day out to go fishing, whether on a Put & Take lake where you have a good chance of a catch, or dropping a line for crabs along a pier on a sunny summer evening. It can be great fun and an ideal tradition for boys and girls.
Wildlife & Nature
Encourage your teens interest in wildlife by going bird or wildlife spotting together. Apps such as PlantNet are a great tool for identifying plants while out exploring wild spaces. Got room for some foster animals to look after - maybe hens at the end of the garden will really interest them? Or bring your teen to be with animals on a farm, horses at a stables, open farm visits, animal sanctuaries or the Irish National Stud. Maybe they could earn some money pet sitting for relatives or pet walking at weekends for neighbours. This can be especially useful if you don't want to keep your own pet at home.
Hiking, camping, wilderness courses, bushcraft days or survival weekends and adventure courses may all tickle this teenagers fancy. Farming with family, or neighbours, trying new skills like carpentry and making things with their own hands will also be of interest. A good tip is to use the skills of relatives, friends and the experts if these types of activities are beyond your comfort zone.
One thing teenagers have in common is their strong beliefs on topics that interest them. Have the conversation about our planet and climate change, and you might discover you have a budding activist on your hands. Empower your child to take some control over this scary issue and be a leader in your family when it comes to sustainable living, green eating, and making healthy changes in your family. Let your teen know you are an ally in their cause and willing to help them in whatever way you can to follow their interest in helping our planet. This could be volunteering or joining a climate march. When you assist them with making manageable changes at home, they feel you care about what is important to them.
Tech, apps, wearable tech
Apps are so plentiful and useful when it comes to the outdoors, from identifying plants to looking at the stars, like PlantNet and SkyView. You can also find fantastic apps and websites to assist you with using leftovers, reducing your carbon footprint, gardening and all sorts. Why not encourage your teen or young person to help you learn to find the best ones and teach you how to use them - following their lead. They might discover a new interest along the way too.