As a parent, you’re grateful to technology for many reasons. A fun movie keeps the kids occupied when you’re too busy to play. Clever tablet and computer games teach them valuable learning skills and let them have fun at the same time. Your phone helps the kids settle down in public when you need them to be quiet, and their favorite TV shows provide them with inspiration that boosts their creativity.
At the same time, you can’t help but worry that technology might take over your children’s lives. After all, they’ve never lived in an age without the Internet. Operating a smartphone seems like an inborn talent in most kids, while you might still struggle to get it to perform basic functions. You might feel anxious that your children would rather sit at a computer screen than get some exercise by playing outside.
Even if your kids currently seem to favor the indoors over the outdoors, you don’t need to worry. It’s still possible to instill a healthy love of nature in your children and teach them to live a more balanced life. Follow the tips in our blog to teach your child to turn off the technology and have fun in the great outdoors.
1. Set a Good Example
This piece of advice gets repeated so often that it might seem tempting to tune it out. However, your kids are bound to feel cheated if you hurry them out of the house to play, then sit on the couch and browse social media sites for the next hour.
Of course, you deserve to take a break and enjoy technology yourself. You probably also need to spend time with technology for work. If your kids feel you’re being unfair, explain to them that you’re working or taking a break, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t play outside while you work or relax.
However, if you spend most of your time inside with technology and rarely venture outside, your kids are bound to pick up on the hypocrisy when you chastise them for wasting time on the computer. Try to model good behavior by spending time outdoors yourself. Tell your kids about your favorite outdoor experiences or memories, and take the time to play with them outside. The more they see that you value nature, the more they’ll be able to as well.
2. Plan Family Outings
One way to set a good example is to experience fun outdoor adventures as a family. Are there any nearby state or national parks that you could visit over a weekend? What local trails are easy enough for your kids to hike? Do you know of any good camping sites that you think your kids would like?
You can also plan less time-intensive activities. Visit a local park and take a short nature walk. Go stargazing a few miles outside the city. Plan a midday picnic in your own backyard. Even the smallest activities help kids get outside and get to know the world around them.
Try to plan activities the whole family can participate in and enjoy. You’ll set a good example and help your kids build good memories of the outdoors that can last a lifetime.
3. Let Kids Take the Lead
Instead of planning every activity yourself, ask the kids for input. Let each child plan a short outdoors family activity in turn based on their own interests. If you’re planning a picnic, have the kids pick out and prepare some of the foods. Before camping out in the backyard, help kids learn to set up a tent or use basic camping equipment appropriate to their age.
When you ask your kids to help you make decisions, they’ll feel more involved in the process and more excited to spend time outside.
4. Talk to Your Child’s Daycare and Preschool Teachers
Chances are, your child’s instructors have planned activities that get kids involved with nature. Ask them about what activities they’ve prepared, then try to find ways to cement their lessons at home. For instance, if your child’s instructor plans a lesson on leaves, foster your child’s enthusiasm by walking around your backyard and collecting leaves from your own home. Working together with your child’s instructor can make their lessons even more meaningful to children.
5. Teach Your Kids About Nature
Kids might not feel that invested in nature if they don’t feel a connection to it. Talk to your kids about how nature helps us survive—plants produce the air they breathe, trees produce their favorite fruits, etc. Even if you live in an urban area, you can still take a walk around the city and familiarize your child with the surrounding ecosystem. Make nature real and relevant to your child’s life.
You can also encourage your kids to be good neighbors to nature in return. Help them understand that they should be nice to trees, plants, and wildlife. Let them know that they can do their part to ensure that the outdoors stay clean. When they feel a sense of responsibility to nature, they’ll be more willing to get involved in the outside world to live up to that responsibility.
As you follow these five steps, you’ll be able to help your children develop a lifelong love of nature. With your help, they’ll be able to balance technology’s benefits with a long and happy relationship with nature. Implement these five steps to get your child outside.