A Dad’s Perspective—Introducing Kids To The Outdoors Without Overwhelming Them
I have been amazed at how open kids are to new experiences, especially in the outdoors. Whether it’s a walk down the street, exploring the local park, or going on a boat ride. It’s equally amazing to see how much kids feed off their parents.
I was fortunate to grow up in a rural area of the Northern Oregon coast for the first 5 years of my life. The ocean was a half-mile away, through a brushy forest behind my house. In front of my house was a hill sloping down to a pond. Later, I frequently went hiking, nordic skiing, rafting and waterskiing with my parents. They gave me tremendous free reign and, hard as I tried, I could rarely freak them out, even when perched high in a tree as a 4 year old! I have, in turn, had a blast seeing the natural world through my daughter’s eyes as much as possible.
Many of my friends ask where to start when it comes to introducing kids to outdoor activities. The answer is simple — start where you are comfortable. The natural world has plenty of potential risks that parents need to recognize and manage in their own way. The place in which your children are exposed to the outdoors seems much less important than the way in which they are exposed. I suggest you seek environments where you, the parent, are most comfortable. This could be a grass field in a city park, feeding the ducks at a pond, or flying down the nearby sled hill. The more you experience the outdoors as a family in ways that Mom and Dad are at ease with, the higher likelihood your children will have fun and gain confidence, leading to a lifelong love of the outdoors.
For inspiration to introduce your kids to outdoor play visit The Campfire Blog to find kids outdoor activities, personal family experiences in the outdoors and tips for your family to make the most of nature today!
Ben McKinley is a 33-year-old Oregon native and dad to a 2-1/2-year-old daughter. He runs a web development shop in Portland. Ben was exposed to the outdoors and sports at a young age—he grew up alpine ski racing at Mt. Ashland and played football through high school and college. As an adult, Ben has coached youth football, high school ski racing, and now a group of adult skiers for 14+ years. Ben enjoys skiing, alpine touring, mountaineering, kayaking, and cycling and considers outdoor exposure a high priority in his daughter’s life.