This content is sponsored by the Breastfeeding Shop.
Technology isn’t always a bad thing, but more and more kids can’t tear themselves away from electronics, whether it be video games, cell phones, or the TV. The child obesity rate is higher now than it has ever been, in part thanks to the mass availability of fast food but also due to how much time children spend on electronics, instead of outside getting exercise.
The world around us can be more entertaining than any TV show or video game. But how do you convince a child or teenager of that?
The most obvious solution is to start them young. Many hikers and campers start taking their children on backpacking and camping trips when their children are newborns — much like my parents did! In fact, my earliest childhood memory is camping out at the lake.
Balance Electronic Time With Outdoor Time
Find ways to balance electronics time with outdoor time, e.g., for every 30 minutes of outdoor time, they get 30 minutes of electronics. Obviously the balance will depend on the age and maturity of the child, as well as your availability to get outside with them if they are not yet old enough to be by themselves.
Make A Game Of It
Depending on their age, make a scavenger hunt. For smaller children, you could challenge them to find a certain color rock, certain types of animals (i.e., birds, snails, frogs), etc. For older children or teenagers, you could have them identify different types of trees, flowers, and animals. The possibilities for this are endless.
Introduce Them To Geocaching
Speaking of scavenger hunts, don’t ditch your kids’ tech — introduce them to the world of geocaching! This is how I got both my “I hate the outdoors because there are too many bugs” teen daughter and my active-duty soldier of a husband interested in hiking. Basically, you use an app on your phone to find geocaches. They are typically located along hiking trails and in parks, but can also be found in shopping mall parking lots. Most geocaches have small prizes inside, so it is basically like a modern-day treasure hunt! To find out more about geocaching, check out my blog.
Get The Right Gear
If you plan on taking your kids for a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip to get them more interested in the outdoors, make sure they have the right gear. The easiest way to ruin a trip is for them to be uncomfortable. Take them to your local outdoors outfitter and have them sized for a backpack. I cannot stress this enough! The backpack can make or break a hiking or backpacking trip. Same goes with all the other gear that comes along with it. If they are out there miserable because they have the wrong gear, you can bet they will never want to go back!
As a parent, competing with technology and electronics can feel almost impossible. In fact, a lot of schools now require kids to have smartphones to use in class! But I am convinced we can outsmart the system and get our kids back in the outdoors, where they can explore and see the beauty and excitement that Mother Nature has to offer.
Bridget Carlson is the face and voice behind Antics of a Nutty Hiker and Military Spouse. She has been a military spouse for 17 years, and is an avid hiker currently planning for a thru-hike of the almost-2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail with her husband, who will be freshly retired from the Army when they begin their five-month journey in mid-February 2020.