It can be a real struggle to get kids outside, mainly because often a child’s image of the outdoors is walking in the rain with aching feet and cold hands - but that can be changed.
As all people who spend time in nature know, being tired and wet isn’t always the case, and the best way to get a child motivated to pull on the boots and get outside and give the outdoors a go, is to give them ownership over the adventure you want them to have. If a child knows that the adventure they’re heading out to do is something that they’ve planned and something that they want to do, it will be less likely there’ll a battle to get out the door in the first place.
Letting kids plan and lead adventures will also help them develop skills that will more than likely come in handy in their future life, and will make an adventure something exciting to look forward too rather than something to dread.
Tip #1 - Start small
It’s really important, especially with young kids, to start with something not too challenging. Encourage your child to stick to a short distance and to walks that aren’t too technically challenging.
Tip #2 – Use the OS Maps App to plan the route
The digital OS Maps app has been really helpful for us when planning adventures, as it makes it much easier to plot (and remember) the route you’re taking. The app enables you to use any of the OS maps to plan, from the 1:25000 scale to a full map of Britain. It measures the distance as you plot your route, graphs the route’s altitude, has cycling, running and walking options, and settings to help calculate the estimated time that it will take to complete your journey.
Example of a route planned in OS Maps
Give your child criteria to follow and let them choose the best route, as well as factoring in places to eat lunch and points of interest. The app is the perfect way for a child to plan their walk, but encourage them to familiarise themselves with the paper version too, so that you have a back-up just in case your technology fails on the day.
Tip #3 – Learn some key map-reading/navigation techniques before you go out
Even though you may be using the OS Maps app to navigate outdoors, basic map reading skills still apply, so it’s important to learn them. The Ordnance Survey have done some brilliant, short map skills videos, presented by Steve Backshall that explain how to read maps, understand contour lines and use a compass.
Tip #4 – Let the child pack the bags (with help, if needed)
Letting a child pack can be a little daunting at first, as having a heavy rucksack full of chocolate isn’t particularly that desirable. But this is one of the most fun bits of planning an adventure – going down to the shops, buying snacks, making sandwiches and compiling a checklist of items to pack. Let the child lead the packing of the bags and give them guidance if needed, but let them have control over what goes in the bag and what doesn’t.
Give them a hand, (for example, inform them of the weather forecast so that the correct gear can be packed) but stand back and let them make the decisions. Also, make them aware that they should pack the bags in a certain order, i.e pack the lunch items first and pack waterproofs last, so that if it does start to rain they are easily accessible.
Tip #5 - Let the child lead the adventure
It may not sound like a good idea, but let the child choose a set off time and work towards it. Let them keep the device (if you’re using the OS Maps app) in their pocket, or keep the paper map within reach, so that the child can keep checking that they’re going the right way and can adapt the route if need be, for example if someone recommends a certain place during your walk. It’s important not to step in too often, even if the child is struggling, as they’ll often figure it out themselves given enough time.
So, the next time you want to go out on a family adventure, hand over the metaphorical keys to the kids and let them sit in the driving seat.
By Amy Meek
Amy is 13 years old, and with her family has spent the last year learning in the outdoors. You can read more about Amy and her family's amazing adventures on their blog, Do Try This At Home, or read more from them on #GetOutside here.