Taking Children Outdoors

outdoor family

Research shows that children and families who play outdoors in nature are healthier, happier and smarter. Plan your outdoor adventure so that it is fun, safe and memorable.   

Expectations

Expectations will make or break your trip outdoors with children.

Yours:

  • Expect to stop frequently to look at the small things that draw your child’s attention.
  • Keep trips short in the beginning and build on each experience.
  • A child’s stamina is not the same as an adult, so keep nature walks and hikes fairly short.
  • Know that your children will ask lots of questions that you might not know the answer to- let that be an opportunity to learn together. 
  • Expect that a child’s interest might not be the same as yours. 
  • Be flexible with your agenda.

Theirs:

  • Let your children know what to expect before you start the journey.
  • Prepare them for the activities that are at the destination- hiking, swimming, fishing, hunting, playgrounds, wildlife viewing.
  • Prepare them for the journey: long car ride, stops before getting to the destination, weather.
  • Let them know you have snacks, water and a food plan.

The more children know what to expect, the calmer they will be when faced with new experiences. 

Safety

  • Know before you go.(Leave No Trace 7 Principles) Make a trip plan and let someone else know where you are going and what time you plan on returning.
  • Keep young children in sight or hearing distance at all times. Have children wear bright colors.
  • Wear layers of clothing in cooler weather.
  • If you are walking or hiking with young children, stay on well-established trails.  Notice the time you left to start the walk to gauge how long it will take to return. 
  • Have a plan to get help in an emergency. Take a cell phone and a trail map that has the address of the park listed on it. 
  • Bring a good first aid kit.
  • Pack water and snacks.
  • Find the nature nearby at Nature Rocks Texas.

The Essentials: Drinks and Snacks

  • Carry enough water for yourself and your children.

    If you are taking children that are not yours, make sure you understand any food allergies that they might have and plan accordingly.

  • Take light weight snacks for longer walks. Fruit, trail mix, peanut butter sandwiches are good fuel foods. Have the children make their own trail mix before heading out on the journey. (Mix raisins, nuts, dried fruit, popcorn, M&Ms together for your own trail mix)
  • Pack it in, pack it out.  If you take fruit, make sure you do not leave the peel or rind behind. Even though they are biodegradable, they might not be good for wildlife.
  • Set frequent destinations for snacks that are in the shade or are in a space that will be of interest to children to explore once they are finished eating.

Activities for Discovering

Remember that you don't need to be a scientist, naturalist or expert in outdoor skills to enjoy nature while hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, or picnicking. Young children are discovering the world closest to them physically, so things at their eye level and on the ground hold great interest. You can also help them discover worlds above their head, too. Just take a look around.

  • Wildlife is exciting to see for children.  Help them enjoy it by: approaching with caution, and observing them quietly, let them ask questions about what they are seeing.
  • Ask children to think about how an animal’s body is designed to help them survive in nature.  Do they have big ears to hear predators? Do they have large round eyes to see better at night? Do they have claws to climb trees or dig holes? Do they have tricks like the possum who plays dead or the armadillo who balls up?
  • Have children think about what type of camouflage animals use.  Does their fur match the color of the grass in the fall? Does a bird’s feathers look like the tree they are sitting in?  Does the pattern of a moth’s wings look like owl eyes? 
  • Wildlife is all around us, but not always visible.  Look at the ground for animal tracks or for feathers that can tell the story of what animals live in that area.
  • The forests can tell us stories as well.  Children can count the rings of a tree to see how old it was. Perhaps there was a fire or flood that left behind reminders.      
  • Challenge children to use their senses.  Ask them to close their eyes and tell you what they hear, or smell.  Ask them to use their eyes to see patterns in the rocks or cliffs that tell the story of the geology.
  • Learn more about the advantages of getting kids outside at TexasChildreninNature.org.


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