Getting Kids Outdoors - Even When They Don't Want To

It happens to all of us. We want our kids to do something and just out of pure spite (sometimes) they won't do it. Unfortunately this applies to outdoor time as well, at least in my experience. My first epic fail came when my son was three and absolutely refused to go hiking. I bribed and threatened him in every way I could think of and he still won't go. Candy didn't even work. I had a newborn at the time and didn't have the equipment to carry them both. It wasn't until he discovered mud that he wanted to hike again. I started calling our hikes mud hunts and he was always ready to go.
The first time my son discovered splashing in the mud. How could I be annoyed with the mess with that smile?
As the years have passed I have continued to get creative in finding ways to motivate my kids to spend time outdoors. It isn't always easy and it doesn't always seem worth it at the time but in the long run I believe my kids will benefit. And I have already seen some. Days when I don't take my son outdoors after school, he is a "bear" to deal with at night. So despite everything my kids throw at me, and they continue to surprise me, I am making it a priority to spend time outdoors. Here are a few ways I am making it happen.

Include friends. This is the best way I have found to get my kids excited about going outdoors. My son is super social and loves any chance to be with people.
Much easier to get kids excited about an activity when friends are involved. 
Make it about them. I fell into to trap of always doing what I wanted to do outdoors (yes, I had a lot to learn as a new mom). I just assumed my kids would love hiking as much as I did. I hope that one day they do but for now I have to find ways to make our hikes more fun for them and take time for their favorite activities what they want to do (generally go to the playground). My post Hiking With Kids: The Essentials has some great ideas for hiking activities. My Pinterest board Kids - Outdoor Activities has plenty of ideas for outdoor play. I am hoping that by making time for the outdoors now it will be easier to get them outdoors as teenagers.

Don't underestimate the power of destinations! This kind of goes along with making your outdoor time about your kids but I have found that I never know what new activity or destination my kids will get excited about. A couple months ago I took my kids hiking at Gloss Mountain in Oklahoma. The trail is short but straight up and it was VERY windy the day we went. Funny thing was, my son told me after the hike that it was his favorite and he has asked to back. I thought he would hate it because it was more difficult then what we generally hike here in Oklahoma but he loved climbing over the rocks and stairs.
My son't favorite hike: Gloss Mountain, OK. Fairly steep but he loved it.
Be consistent. I work hard to not let my kids talk me out of going outdoors - it gives them the power and they know it. Sometimes I promise we will only stay out for fifteen minutes, although we usually stay out for longer because they get involved and don't want to stop, and give them something to look forward to after outdoor time.

Take the inside out. We do homework outdoors. We eat meals outdoors. We read outdoors. We eat treats and after school snacks outdoors. Try having a movie night outdoors. Take it up a notch and give it a theme. Back when I was single we watched one of the James Bond movies by a Bond fire (aka bonfire). Cheesy? Yes, but we had fun and that's what counts.
We ate lunch at the botanical garden. Sometimes it is a distraction; sometimes it helps them work up a good appetite.
Limit technology. This takes away one of the main reasons my kids want to stay indoors. My kids have to earn iPad time and when they do they only get fifteen minutes. Seems harsh but I have found that the more technology time my kids have the more they want and the more tantrums we have trying to regulate use. My son still tests us but we are consistent and most of the time he knows when he didn't earn it.

Let them stay indoors but don't let them play on technology. Sometimes it just isn't worth the battle. I take the child who wants to play outside and 9 times out of 10 the other will eventually come outside.

Go out (almost) no matter the weather. I think this is the biggest thing that keeps people indoors and it is a parent problem as much as a kid problem. I hear a lot of friends comment that they don't go outdoors in the hot summer months or cold winter months. Makes me sad because different types of weather allow for different types of play and all are fun in by opinion. Check out my post Tips and Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors in the Winter and Tales of a Mountain Mama has some suggestions for beating the heat. If winter gear is a barrier I wrote a whole post on DIY winter gear or, in other words, inexpensive gear that will still keep you relatively warm.
We even had my son's July birthday party outdoors. Some of our friends were less than thrilled. 
Set a good example. I love to exercise and most of my exercise is running, walking, hiking or Pilates at home. We spent a couple days indoors because my husband was out of town and I had the flu. By the third day I told my kids I was going to take them outdoors no matter what. My son responded that he was glad because his body needed exercise. I have been surprised how much my son is aware of his need for time outdoors. Anytime he has indoor recess it is the first thing I hear about after school.
I do have a pair of running spikes I can wear WHEN we get ice storms. 
Your turn. What do you do when your kids don't want to go outside?


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