When my granddaughter Amber was five years old, she had with her a sleeping bag, pillow, a change of clothes, flashlight, water bottle and a stuffed teddy bear. She was all set for camping in our tent at a family gathering.
My other granddaughter, Amber’s older sister Jade, was eight years old at that time. She had her sleeping bag, pillow, clothes, flashlight and water bottle, and she, too, was well prepared. During that special weekend and other that followed, Amber and Jade experienced camping and all it entailed, including a campfire, roasting marshmallows, bedtime stories and reading by flashlight before falling fast asleep in a tent.
Many readers of this magazine are parents and grandparents as well as outdoor enthusiasts. Even so, a fair number of our children and grandchildren prefer to huddle indoors over their PlayStation 4 over hiking a trail or camping in a tent.
According to the 2010 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report, “Most youth are introduced to outdoor activities by parents, friends, family and relatives. Three quarters of children ages 6 to 12 are influenced in their participation in outdoor activities by their parents.”
The 2011 report followed up by stating, “To foster the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards, we must continue working together to engage our children in the outdoors.” And the most recent 2013 report said, “To ensure healthy, active communities and a future for outdoor conservation, America’s young people must be engaged in outdoor participation.”
What these reports are saying is that parents, perhaps with some help from their parents, need to take a major role in children’s lives by getting them outdoors. We should follow the advice of author Richard Louv, who professes in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, that children need to be allowed to experience and appreciate nature. And parents need to take a major role in assuring that happens.
What better way to get kids outside and with nature then to offer them a challenge, like camping, hiking and backpacking.
All of Jim Joque’s tips on introducing kids to the great outdoors appear in the August 2014 print edition of Silent Sports magazine. To order a copy, call 888-706-4045. Or subscribe online here and never miss another issue!