One of the best things about enjoying the outdoors is sharing that love with future generations. Instilling within children a respect and excitement for nature and all that it entails is a great way to ensure out natural resources will be appreciated in the years to come. This involves more than simply taking your children camping or fishing, though. There are certain ages when children are more apt to learn new skills, and engaging them with activities and practices relating to the outdoors at an early age is a great way to cultivate the future outdoorsman that resides in their heart. Here are a few tips and activities that will help you teach a child how to love, appreciate, and respect the outdoors, as well as prepare them for future excursions to the wilderness.
One way to get children interested and knowledge-seeking when it comes to nature is scavenger hunts. Scavenger hunts are great because not only do they get children active and mentally engaged, but they are so versatile in their content. For instance, if you live in a region fraught with various animal types, a footprint scavenger hunt is a great idea. This will enable your child to learn to recognize different animal prints, which can be crucial in an outdoor situation where survival may depend on finding food or avoiding predators. Other great ideas for scavenger hunts include small animals like toads or turtles (be safe and careful with them, though) tree leaves, rocks, and even miscellaneous objects like pinecones.
If you want to get a little more hands-on, I suggest taking some time to teach the kids not only how to collect firewood, but also how to build a quality fire—controlled, of course. For the biology buffs, you can get some tweezers and dissect owl pellets to see who can recreate a mouse skeleton from the bones found inside. All of these are great ways to allow the kids to feel like more of a part of the process and teaches them how to use their hands in coordination with their brains.
With groups of children, you can turn lessons into fun games. I remember an outdoor camp I attended as a child where teams participated in a triathlon of sorts. Different stations were set up and we couldn’t move to the next one until the current one was completed. We had to work together to paddle a canoe—with and without oars—then build a fire, and finally bring a pot of water to a boil on that fire. The first team to complete all that won. (We won, by the way.) Such games are great for when you have a lot of kids at your disposal, and they do a great job of developing teamwork skills and outdoor knowledge.
The ideas listed above are just a few of the many that you can utilize when you’re trying to involve your kids in the outdoors. Remember also to teach them how to refrain from damaging the ecosystem, leaving a mess, or anything else that might harm a vital piece of nature. Building a healthy respect and love for the outdoors at an early age by teaching kids useful wilderness skills will go a long way towards ensuring the preservation of nature for future generations.