Why I Want My Daughters to Grow Up Loving the Outdoors
I remember my childhood fondly. I lived in the typical suburbia American neighborhood – wide, tree-lined streets with lots of neighborhood friends. Most of my days were spent running around that neighborhood playing hide and go seek and cruising around with friends on our bikes.
But now I look at my girls and struggle with balancing my parenting fears with the knowledge that they should get to experience their childhood outside, too. Whether these parenting fears are valid or unfounded, it has still shaped the way our children play outdoors. And I worry it’s shaping a whole generation of homebodies.
Think back to your own childhood and how it felt to be free outdoors, enjoying that sense of self-control and empowerment. Not to mention the imaginative games and play you created in your mind. Even as an adult, recall how you felt when you’ve been outdoors – perhaps on a great nature hike or even just walking the dog. It can bring you such peace and joy.
Raising two girls in this media-heavy and fearful parenting environment has given me a new wish for them. I want them to grow up loving the outdoors. It’s as simple as that. I want them to know and experience the freedom that can be found in the outdoors, the immense sense of peace that can come over you when you’re breathing in fresh air, and glimpsing the natural beauty surrounding you.
My challenge as a parent is how do I help them grow up loving the outdoors? What steps can I take to encourage this appreciation? My list of ideas for stirring up this outdoor passion isn’t extreme or geographically specific. It’s things each and every parent can do with their kids.
In our daily lives, I’m trying to be more mindful of getting outdoors as a family. Even if it’s inviting my girls to join me when I walk our dog, we’re getting outdoors together. These neighborhood walks often lead to some of the best talks we share with each other. In raising kids, it’s important to show them that you hear them, and that you take the time to listen. If they have fond memories of walks as a kid, my guess is they’ll grow up enjoying walks as an adult, too.
My travel planning has also started to be shaped by this goal. We love finding hikes to do in destinations we’re visiting. Recently we went horseback riding in Montana and found ourselves eating lunch on top of a valley overlook. These memories matter. This summer, we’ll be taking our very first multi-day rafting trip. While it’s outside of my hotel comfort zone, I can’t wait to see my girls experience the outdoors and having ownership of their discoveries.
My last effort revolves around the weather. So many of us hunker down when the weather gets cold or rainy. But why? As long as we’re dressed appropriately, outdoor exploration can happen in any kind of weather. We live on two green belts and my girls love to catch tadpoles and create forts in these nature zones. While I cringe at the laundry, I realize that kids aren’t built afraid of the elements. Our society eventually leads them into thinking it’s gross, or uncomfortable, or wrong.
I want my girls to grow up loving the outdoors. I want them excited to head out and explore new frontiers. Kids who are empowered and self-confident can go far in the world. Join me in being a parent who teaches our kids that learning isn’t just found in the pages of books or on the computer, it’s also found in Mother Nature.