Exercise makes you stronger. And for kids, once it becomes part of their daily routine, will provide benefits for their entire life. The best secret? Find things you can do together, even if you are both learning new skills. To foster that relationship, here are a few sure-fire tips that should help create a new generation of enthusiastic outdoor lovers.
Create the “WOW” Factor
Where are the best views within 100 miles of your house? Is there a local hill you can climb to overlook your city or town? Pick trips to a visually stunning area, whether it is climbing 61 flights of stairs to the observation area in Boston’s John Hancock building or doing the cable route up Half Dome in Yosemite. Go for the spectacular when you are planning on a hike, walk, bike, or ski with your kids and often times the scenery that will leave them gobsmacked will also distract them from the very real fact that they’re exercising.
Learn something about your destination and bring that knowledge with you. Find it on a map (and bring a compass). Pick up a guidebook to your local trail system and nearby peaks. Research local wildlife, birds, and geology. Bring along a notebook and binoculars. Consider visiting an historic monument or battlefield. And then involve your kids, make them join in the discovery. The more your children experience, the stronger platform they’ll have for not only fitness, but school as well.
Nothing turns an inspired outing into a miserable experience more than when your kids get too hot, too cold, or too wet. Comfortable, washable, durable outdoor apparel has never been more affordable. Dress your boys and girls in clothes that encourage running, jumping, tumbling, and hiking. That means loose-fitting tights that aren’t too baggy, comfortable shorts that aren’t too short, and non-cotton t-shirts and a jacket that block the sun, wind, and rain. Add a ball cap and sunglasses for hot, sunny weather. And lightweight shoes with a flexible but supportive sole and appropriate tread. Well-fitting socks are a must!
Reward an active lifestyle with good food. Use outdoor activities as times when kids get fun treats. There’s nothing wrong with the promise of a popsicle or ice cream after an outdoor adventure. And get creative with snacks—energy bars, carrot sticks, apples, and cheese sticks are handy pick-me-ups on the trail and easy to organize. Everyone should have a favorite water bottle—decorate it with stickers from the parks you visit.
Set a Goal and Train
Just like you’d prep to hike Kilimanjaro, do some research and find a more “epic” adventure (in your region, or somewhere in the country) and use that as an incentive to help keep your kids focused and inspired on the frequent “training” hikes. We’re not talking a month-long assault of one of the seven peaks here. But a low-key backpacking trip, canoe excursion, or peak-bagging expedition can provide the impetus your kids (and you) need to take daily walks, do sit ups, push ups, or pull ups. You don’t need to belong to a gym to increase your level of fitness. Just try to help your kids make the connection between being active and having more fun with any outdoor pursuit they choose.