Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Seven reasons kids don’t want to go outside

What should you do when your child would rather
not go outside?

And what you can do to change
their minds (for their benefit!)

Perhaps the bane of any outdoor-minded parent is the child who doesn’t want to go outside. In an era when children enjoy Internet connections, video games, and more than 500 television channels, this is increasingly a problem.

Arguably, almost every child enjoys time outside, though. So while competition with technology certainly is an issue, there often is another underlying issue that leads them to choose the technology inside over the adventure awaiting them outside.

Identifying those issues and knowing how to resolve them can, over time, turn most children into lovers of the outdoors.

Some common reasons children may not want to go outside include:
They dislike being cold – With less body fat and a lower tolerance for unpleasant conditions, children often will get colder sooner than an adult. In contrast, staying indoors offers a more controlled and stable climate. Helping children stay warm by dressing them properly and layering their clothing can help show them that being outside doesn’t equate to being cold.
They believe they’ll be bored – Being in nature often is a less “intense” experience than playing a video game or watching a football game. The outdoors tends to offer subtle rewards whereas technology brings immediate and rapid stimulation. Engaging children outdoors with games and activities will allow them to experiencing the one stimulation they innately desire the most: quality time with one’s parent.
They equate being outside with a lot of hard, tiring work – When hiking, some children literally have to run to keep up with their parents while others feel like they are on a death march. Slow your rate or consider walking a crisscrossing pattern on the trail so that children can more easily keep up. Also, limit the distance you walk to what your children can handle and gradually increase the lengths of your walks, as their abilities grow.
They have no choice in the matter – Feeling powerless, children can believe they are being forced to be some place they do not want to be. The solution is to give them a say in where you will hike. Allowing them to in part set the itinerary helps them feel invested in the experience and gives them something along the way to look forward to.
They don’t like getting dirty – Mud, blowing sand, wet grass that results in a wet butt when one sits, sweat from walking in a beating sun, and more can lead children to believe that being outdoors means no longer being clean and hence no longer comfortable. To combat this, ensure kids are properly dressed for wet or sunny conditions. Walking on trails that are wide and well-maintained can help limit the yuckiness some children equate with being outside.
They find the outdoors frightening – Some children are scared of insects, of having an asthma attack, of touching poison ivy, and more. Show them you are medically prepared to help them should such an emergency occur. In addition, when outside keep them engaged with activities to take their minds off any fears. With time, any fear likely will diminish.
They find being outside places them at a “competitive” disadvantage – If a child is the only sibling who doesn’t like to be outside, it may be because they are slower to pick up on outdoors-related skills, may not be able to walk as far, or feel left out. Engage in games and activities that aren’t competitive and only walk as far as the child who doesn’t like to be outside can handle.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.