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Top 10 Fun Outdoor Activities to Get your Kids off the Couch

Top 10 Fun Outdoor Activities to Get your Kids off the Couch

As childhood obesity rates continue to rise, it’s becoming more and more important to get those kids off the couch. Like you need an excuse! Outdoor activities are oftentimes the most memorable, both for children and adults.

Outdoors, you’ll have experiences that engage all of the senses. The deep green of a pine forest, the sharp, bright scent of pine needles, the rugged texture of bark, the sweet yet bitter taste of cocoa from a thermos, the sound of rust-orange needles crunching beneath the feet…

There’s only so much a computer screen can teach kids. The rest – the unbidden lessons that engage the entire being – come from nature.

  1. Treasure hunting

treasuremap

    If you think about it, hunting for treasure is every kid’s dream. Ever seen The Goonies? That’s what I thought. Bury some fake doubloons and create your own map, pirate-style. Then set off on an adventure. Or, if you want to get official, there are metal detectors made for kids. Take them on a real hunt for coins, lost jewelry, and trinkets. A great educational exercise is to research the area first before you take them out. You’ll learn a great deal of history and geography. When you’re actually hunting, you’ll notice geographical features you never noticed before.

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    1. Surfing

    kidsurf

      This is another activity kids love, but for many, it’s just a pipe-dream. Why not change that for your child? Kids make for great surfers because it’s a high energy sport and kids have less fear than adults. To kids, surfers are just plain cool. Contrary to the typical image, surfing’s not all about twenty-foot waves and beach-bumming it. Start small. Consult surfing tips for beginners. Find a used board at least one foot taller than your child (and yourself, since you’ll be doing it too!). A wetsuit is important because you’ll be spending a lot of time in the water. Find a less crowded area. You might want to hire an instructor. Then go, and if your kid likes it, why no make it a regular thing?

      1. Camp

      kidscamp

        Yes, kids act like they don’t want to go to a camp. But you don’t always have to listen to the complaints – in this case, complaints stem from a fear of the unknown. Great memories come from camp, and the bad ones, well, they give your kid a story to tell and adversity to overcome. But it does help to put careful thought into which camp is right for your child. Consider tips on finding the right camp. There are over 11,000 camps in the U.S., so you’ll want to think about whether it should be co-ed, religious, sports-oriented, highly structured, lengthy, etc.

        1. Fishing

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        kidfish

          I don’t know what it is about fishing, but many a kid has a knack for it. The whole beginner’s luck cliché rings true. Kids don’t try too hard when they fish, and if you’ve ever been fishing before, you know trying too hard doesn’t work.  To get your kid interested in fishing, don’t overwhelm them with an intense, hard, long experience. Provide them with polarized glasses, which eliminate glare on the water. Take them out on a nice day, bring snacks, plan ahead, and if you’re fly-fishing, check out a Tenkara rod. They’re simple—rod, line, fly—the easiest fly rod to learn on.

          1. Fort-building

          fort

            A fort can be as big or little as you want, depending on how big or little your kid is. Do it in your backyard, or do it in the wilderness. The backyard fort is as simple as sheets over a lower branch or a clothesline. Or use scrap wood and nail together a basic hut. In the woods, gather branches and create a lean-to. Kids love forts so much because their imagination knows no bounds.

            1. Horseback riding

            horseback

              Whether your kid is old enough to hop on a horse, or at pony-riding age, this is an exciting activity for kids. Doubtless, you remember the connection you shared with animals as a child. Horseback riding takes that connection to the trail and gives them a chance to learn about these magnificent animals. Before you put them on a trail horse, consider lessons and whether or not they’re ready. Get professional input, and help them understand the sensitivities of horses. Once they’re ready, riding can help them build confidence, strength, coordination, and focus.

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              1. Canoeing

              canoe

                Find a river or lake, hopefully, one with an island, and take off on a canoe. This is the type of adventure any kid wants to experience. Time on the water with just you and your child is peak quality time. Make sure you bring life vests in case the unexpected happens. Also bring snacks, lunch, and basic survival supplies. Give your kid a chance to row. Especially if your child has never done this before, you won’t believe their enthusiasm.

                1. Building and flying a kite

                kite

                  The great thing about flying a kite is that it doesn’t take a lot to build one. Get a plastic bag, kite string, two sticks, scissors, and ribbon. Tie the sticks together like a cross, then cut the bag in a diamond shape to fit. Tie the bag to the frame. Tie the flying string onto the horizontal stick. On the end of the kite, tie ribbon for balance. Then, find a windy place and let it go! This actually takes a lot of practice and work with the wind, but it’s a blast.

                  1. Touring the zoo

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                  zoo

                    This is a great chance for kids to learn about different animals, and it’s a classic activity for kids. It’s also a great chance for you to let them make up their own mind on whether they agree with the idea of zoos, to begin with. At the end of the day, the zoo requires a lot of walking and a lot of observation. These are both good for kids.

                    1. Hiking

                    hike

                      Can’t forget this one! Hiking is fun for young and old. There are some fantastic destinations for hikes, such as Yosemite’s Valley Floor Loop, the Appalachian Trail, Jay Peak, and more. These can be the focal point of your next vacation. Find a hiking stick for yourself and your child, all the better if it’s a stick you whittle until it’s smooth. Get the supplies and set off to immerse yourself in nature, in the engagement of all your senses. You and your child will never forget the experiences you have on your hikes.

                      Featured photo credit: flickr.com via flickr.com

                      More by this author

                      Dan Matthews, CPRP

                      A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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                      Published on November 12, 2020

                      How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

                      How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

                      As you sit there, perhaps on a sofa, maybe a lounge chair, or while you’re sharing a meal at the table, you glance over to the pride and joy you are happy each day to call your child. They smile back, running around the table they learned to stand up using or kiss you on the cheek as they snatch your car keys for their first (or second, but what feels like hopefully the last) errand using your car. You watch as they take their plate from the table, ask if anyone needs anything on their way to the sink, and then finally meander towards the living room saying to you, “Bed fort after dinner?”

                      How respectful! How creative! Such initiative!

                      What you may not realize is that because we don’t often think about this in the day-to-day of parenting, your child’s strengths—the initiative, creativity, drive, passion, and introspective nature that turns other people off—are cultivated daily!

                      If you’ve never given thoughts to your child’s inherent strengths, that’s okay. As is all too common, you’re conditioned to only look at what they need to fix.[1]

                      Turns out, identifying, cultivating, and managing your child’s strengths isn’t very difficult. In fact, much of those three steps can occur during a visit to the park. Let’s discover simple and effective ways to highlight your child’s strengths.

                      Identifying Strengths

                      Now, I know what you may be thinking: between office meetings, Zoom sessions, laundry, and grocery shopping, when exactly do I have time to become a psychologist?

                      I get it. But really, identifying your child’s strengths is not difficult. In fact, a simple exercise usually suffices—participate in their play!

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                      Participate in Their Play

                      Play can take many forms and is usually defined as an activity that does not bring extrinsic value to be enjoyed—us adults typically refer to these activities as “hobbies.” Whether your child is two or thirteen, children are children, after all, and play is essential.

                      According to a report from the University of Utah, play is a way for children to practice “problem-solving, self-control, and learning how to share.”[2] Aren’t those powerful strengths that we should identify and cultivate in our supportive role of helping children thrive as adults?

                      When children engage in play, they naturally show how they lead, how they empathize with others, and how they work with others (or not) to solve problems. If you spend time being present with your children during play, you will be able to see how your child’s strengths manifest in the simplest of activities. Seeing your children play allows you to see how they make mistakes, too, which is a powerful indicator of their sense of self.

                      Allow (Supported) Mistakes—and Often!

                      Identifying your child’s strengths has nothing to do with demanding them to be perfect. Far from it, actually. Remember—you are guiding them to becoming a self-sufficient and nurturing adult, and there aren’t many of us out there that are perfect!

                      Highlighting moments when your child has made some mistakes and working through how to bounce back or fix that mistake can be wondrous when they are working towards understanding their effect on others, themselves, and the world.

                      Just like parents that tend to focus too much on the negative, children too often learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Catch your child softly during a mistake, and work through a plan to get themselves out of it. Your goal is not to fix their issue, of course, but to build within them the capacity to make a better choice next time.

                      When you take on this mindset of an engaging and present parent that is looking for ways to build your child’s strengths, you’ll be surprised at what you see them able to do.

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                      Some solid examples of inherent child strengths to look for include:

                      These are the soft skills that are being developed as young as preschool and even before. In today’s global workplace environment, ensuring that your child is developing in these (and other) areas will set them up for success.

                      Okay, great. You’ve watched your children at the park or tag along with your teenager to a volunteer event and notice how gracious they are. How do we keep that going?

                      As is normally the case, you’ll see that cultivating strengths is no more difficult than identifying them.

                      Cultivating Your Child’s Identified Strengths

                      Imagine this scenario: Thursday evening, and you’ve worked your fourth ten-hour day. Your partner is late getting home from work, and your three kids are all wanting different things for dinner that should have been made yesterday.

                      At the exact moment you’re about to snap from the pressure, your middle child says, “Hey, maybe we can all act like chefs tonight and make our own dinners? Might be fun!”

                      Um, yes, please?

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                      As you settle in bed later that evening and reflect on that exchange in the kitchen, you start to highlight other times that child—and, as you doze, your other children in their own ways—stepping up and leading. You know this cannot be by accident, so what’s going on here?

                      Provide Many At-Bats

                      Just because a child can take their plate to the sink doesn’t mean they are responsible enough with Grandma’s China set. But when you provide the “at-bats” for children to build capacity using their strengths, you see the road to them handling more difficult scenarios becoming less and less cluttered with obstacles.

                      There will come a day, and perhaps soon, that your child will be able to navigate that China with extreme grace. Today just ain’t that day, but with some work, it’ll come!

                      Providing opportunities for your child to build on their strengths is a great idea. Everyone likes to feel competent, and your child is no different! Setting up scaffolded opportunities for them to showcase their budding personalities decreases the stress and increases the chance that, next time, they will perform even better.

                      Teach Them to Trust but Verify

                      Good leaders don’t have all the answers. Neither should you and of course, we don’t expect our children to know everything. But we should build within them the capacity for understanding what they don’t know and figuring out ways to get the information they need to work through their situations.

                      You cannot always have the answers, either. So, what should you do?

                      Exposing them to the world of information that exists is a good start. Great, you’ve identified your child is empathetic, but must they assist and provide supportive care to everyone they encounter? Or should there be some healthy boundaries established?

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                      Working with your children to mold and curate these more nuanced approaches to their strengths will provide them with a good road map to use when they ultimately leave you and lead their own lives.

                      Turning Weaknesses Into Opportunities

                      While not exactly the elephant in the room, I can’t possibly write an article about child strengths without also addressing the fact that our children aren’t possibly capable of being good at everything.

                      Perhaps one of your most important roles as a parent is to decide what strengths your child has and to inspire them to cultivate those strengths using the tips and suggestions in this article. However, there will be a wide variety of opportunities for you to work through the challenges your child experiences.

                      I don’t want this to sound too harsh but the fact is, everyone has competencies on a spectrum: you can work, hustle, and grind to develop parts of your personality or skill set to whatever gain you set for yourself. Allowing children to operate with a mindset of progress, not perfection, will help their journey. You cannot be weak, after all, if you are constantly striving for improvement.

                      So, the next time you take your kiddo out to the park, attend a professional sporting event, or perhaps when you’re playing cards in the living room on a cold winter night, pay attention to how they maneuver around.

                      How are they asking for what they need? How are they offering support? How are they handling conflict? How are they bouncing back from missed opportunities or mess-ups?

                      In each of those moments—and many more—the opportunity to cultivate strength in your child is just around the corner!

                      More Tips on Developing Your Child’s Strengths

                      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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