As a child of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I grew up outside perched in the back of pick-up trucks, on the seat of a boat and in the saddle of an ATV.  Mind you, I also grew up when there was no Twitter, Facebook and Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet, but that’s a totally different story.

Modern times have brought along modern troubles with parenting: how much time can kids spend on the computer, in front of the TV, or hooked to an X-Box? As I watch my own son grow, I am constantly considering how I will ensure that on his 2nd Grade “About Me” survey he doesn’t list “Watching TV” as his favorite activity. And I am pretty sure that the answer to my concerns may be found in getting outside.

Whether you ride an ATV, a snowmobile, a jet ski, or load the family up in a boat, spending time in the outdoors and having fun are the memories that kids will remember. Since having our own kid, my husband and I often reflect with our parents about what stands out from our childhood, and the answer is always the same: riding dirt bikes, hanging out at the lake, going fishing.  Sure, I had a Nintendo when I was little, but playing it surely didn’t shape who I was.

Being outside, riding down dusty dirt roads and learning how to drive a boat are what made me who I am today.

I learned the value of a dollar. I knew that riding gear and nice life jackets weren’t cheap and that my parents saved for me to have them. As I got older, I began saving to purchase my own gear and took pride in my ability to buy cool things I wanted.

I learned how to pay attention to where I was. Dirt roads all look alike and if I didn’t want to get lost, it was a quick lesson to pay attention to your surroundings.

I learned how to fix things. Every girl should know how to check a spark plug, jump a battery, replace a battery, change the oil, mix fuel…For that matter, so should every boy. And it’s amazing how many don’t. Taking part in motorsports is a stellar introduction to motor vehicles of any sort, and my time in the outdoors taught me to be self-reliant.

I learned to appreciate Mother Nature. You know how they call it “God’s Country?” By exploring the great outdoors from the back of an ATV, and getting my fair share of sunburns out on the lake, I gained an unparalleled appreciation for the beauty and importance of the outdoors. By helping me understand that the outdoors were a place for recreation, it was easier to embrace that they are also an imperative part of our ecosystem and the wellbeing of the world.

And I learned that the most expensive or most “in” thing isn’t what your kids will remember. Your kids will remember what you did together, as a family, and what sparked a life-long interest in them. So take the time to pull your kids away from the iPad, the TV or the internet and sit them on the back of an ATV. You might just be surprised how big of a positive impact you, and that machine, are having on your kids.