If you are a parent then you will a) understand the importance of getting your kids active and outdoors and b) understand that this is generally about as easy as threading a rope through a sewing needle. People who don’t have kids can’t truly understand just how difficult it is. There are days when just leaving the house to pop to the shops can take 45 minutes and involve arguing, door slamming and lots of pouting (and that’s just me!). So, just how can you start to encourage your little darlings to get outside….
There has been a huge drop in the amount of time kids spend outside. They are glued to the TV, their mobile devices, games consoles and also we as parents have to take some of the hit as we are often reluctant to let them go and explore. This is having a huge impact on their health and wellbeing. Today we are more and more aware of the importance of having a healthy body and a healthy mind but sometimes we are guilty of forgetting that our children need to learn these skills too.
So how can you incorporate outdoor time in to your kids’ lives?
Try to make getting outside a natural part of everyday life, like dance or football lessons. Kids are really good at mucking about, so let them! Let them invent games, climb trees, hunt out bugs and insects. Let them get muddy, in fact encourage them to get as mucky as possible, they are after all waterproof and clothes can be washed!
Remember that they pick up on your insecurities so try as hard as you can not to show your fear! Try not to be too over-protective. You can get creative, create some landscape art making stone, leaf or twig drawings and take photos. Or just go collecting. Perhaps see if you can collect an item for each letter of the alphabet.
Get them out on walks. You know this sounds SO much easier than it actually is. Again, if you don’t have kids you won’t understand how hard it is sometime to encourage your kids to go out for a walk. Even with ours who have been out with us since they were babies it is still like pulling teeth most of the time. When they were young we would make it in to a game; we would go Giant Hunting on the Black Mountains and see if we could find the Giant’s Footsteps on Hay Bluff, we would make up fantastical animals that we were searching for, just ask my kids about the Welsh Lesser Spotted Gungleflump. They are incredibly rare but beautiful animals that do mahoooive poos the size of hills. Llangatock is a great place to spot them, but it’s a little bit of a walk to get there – wink wink…
Now they are older it’s harder, also it’s frustrating as we know that as soon as they are out on the hills they will be happier and enjoy every minute. So, perseverance is good, as is bribery. Stuff the healthy eating (sorry nutritionists out there) but let’s face it, nuts and dried fruit just will not cut it with a 14 and 11 year old. Sweets it is, and cake.
It is important as well to make sure that they have some decent kit, now don’t panic here it can be found cheaply but it is worth getting them some decent footwear, a waterproof (which they will hate 99% of the time except when it starts to pee it down) and trousers that aren’t jeans or heavy cotton. Another great thing is to get them their own rucksack. Both mine love taking their own lunch, water bottle and in the case of my son a variety of stuffed toys, a rugby ball, nerf gun and of course a fidget spinner. All essential hill kit.
Great shops for cheap kids walking clothes are Decathlon, Mountain Warehouse (avoid their footwear though), Regatta Outlet and Trespass Outlet. I always buy large and roll up sleeves and trousers, for the fashion conscious kids it can be a struggle however so use your imagination. There have been occasions when Barney has walked in wicking t-shirt, waistcoat and trilby hat. You can also buy iron on embroidered labels (H&M have good ones) which you can use to decorate walking tops and trousers, the kids can help with this and customise their own kit. Grab them quick though they are in the sale! Similar ones can be found in John Lewis haberdashery department and local haberdashery shops, or eBay.
The key thing though is for YOU to enjoy being outdoors. If you are packing them off outside while you sit indoors with a cuppa on your phone then they will resent it, and you. So, go with them and do it together. Give them some freedom, let them go for a bike ride with friends, let them go to the park. They could cycle there and you could walk down and meet them. They need to be allowed to be free to enjoy being outside. After all you as a parent are responsible for their wellbeing, not just now but as they grow up and become parents themselves.
Go on get those kids outside!