Top tips: Encouraging children to get outdoors
It’s no secret that spending time outdoors is good for your health, it’s great for your well being and is a real boost for your energy levels. But sometimes getting children outdoors to reap some of these rewards can be easier said than done. So, whether you work with them or have your own, the Youth Adventure Trust have put together some top tips for getting children and young people out enjoying the great outdoors:
- Make it a challenge. How can you turn your plans into an adventure? Can you take them somewhere they've never been before or let them experience somewhere they have been before in a new way? Maybe you can let the do something they've never done - a river paddle, exploring a cave, mountain biking, bushcraft skills, making a shelter they sleep out in, tree climbing...
- Don't make it about your agenda. Just because you think caving / climbing / hiking is amazing doesn't mean the children in your care will - think about what would interest them.
- Not a walk! Rather than announcing that you are all ‘going for a walk’ which to many young people has no point, make it something much more fun: going out on a photography project, or to make an adventure film, or to collect firewood for that campfire they're keen to light and cook on that evening. Make the walk incidental rather than the purpose of your outing.
- Give them control. Let them choose the activity / route (and be prepared … you never know where you might end up and what adventures will follow!).
- Do a deal. You get to choose an activity they have to do, then they can choose one for you.
- Use technology. Get a GPS gadget or fitness tracking app; try geocaching or games like Pokemon Go.
- Make it a game. Buy some camo paint – or make your own out of facecream and mud - and get some camouflage clothes, then get the young people to hide whilst you're out and about. Or set a series of games or challenges along the route. You could even set clues for them to follow and discover the route.
- Walkie talkies. These give young people the freedom to explore further afield – they can scout out the route up ahead then give you navigational instructions.
- Set a big goal. It’s got to be something you are all up for (walk the South West path, climb the 3 peaks, have an overnight expedition with friends) then work up towards it with mini adventure / training days.
- Be the student. Encourage the young people in your care to teach you the skills they've learnt i.e if they are doing DofE can they teach you how to map read? Or if they have done your planned activity before can they teach some of the skills to others in the group?
- Kit check! Make sure you are all warm, dry and comfortable with decent well fitted gear that you are comfortable wearing (who would enjoy being outdoors if they’re cold, wet, have sore feet or feel uncomfortable?).
- Don’t always try to please everyone. Sometimes make it 1:1 time, especially if you are a busy family. Plan a trip out just for one parent and one child.
- Pack an amazing packed lunch. A flask of hot chocolate or plenty of nutritional but tempting snacks to keep their energy up work wonders.
- A good old fashioned bribe or some kind of reward at the end. Cake in a cafe, fish and chips on the beach or collect some sticks while you're out and get them to help you make a fire and get involved in cooking dinner on it when you're back home.
Don’t underestimate the resilience young people have when they are doing something they want to be doing; you may find they are more weather proof than you think, can teach you a thing or two and may inspire you to take on a new challenge yourself.
The Youth Adventure Trust is a registered charity which works with vulnerable young people aged 11-15. Its specially designed Programme spans 3 school years and uses outdoor adventure to enable participants to build resilience, develop confidence and learn skills that will last a lifetime. You can find out more about their work and the volunteer roles available at www.youthadventuretrust.org.uk
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