If you’re wondering why I haven’t been around for the past few months, I’m here to tell you. My family and I were taking a much-needed break from the online world, and it has been an incredible experience for us. We live in a world that is consumed by technology, and this inevitably leads to our families spending way too much time indoors and in front of screens. It happens to the best of us, but our kids really need to know that there is a big and beautiful world out there waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. They should experience the glorious satisfaction of climbing a mountain, breathing in the salty ocean air, or stepping foot in places that many people can only imagine. I’m back today to share my tips for teaching kids to unplug and go outside. The principles apply to people of all ages and circumstance, and you will never regret training your kids to get outside and enjoy nature!
When our children are small, they are like sponges, soaking up everything that we say and do. We need to take advantage of this time to teach them about the joys of outdoor adventures. My father did this for me and my sisters, and it had a tremendously positive effect on our lives. Some of my earliest memories include taking hikes with my dad, swimming in lakes and rivers, catching pollywogs, and snorkeling in ocean harbors. As an adult, my greatest joy is being outside in the fresh air. Our kids are never too young to start exploring the outdoors, so start the journey as soon as you can.
Lead by Example
We always hear that the best way to teach is by our own example. Think about how much time you actually spend on your phone, tablet, or computer. Of course, most of us have to work a secular job, and a lot of our work is done on phones and computers these days. That is all the more reason for us to unplug and get outside when we aren’t working, to take our kids to new places, to lead the way to new adventures, and to show them how much fun it can be to break away from technology. I work full time from my laptop, so if I’m not getting paid to do my job, I want to break away from the office and go outside and play! Our children are not going to want to unplug and go outside if we don’t lead the way.
Make it Fun
Most people would agree that phones, video games, and television are entertaining. The great outdoors will bring a different kind of fun into our lives, and it is definitely a healthier and more productive kind of fun than sitting in front of a screen. Kids are programmed to enjoy technology these days, so we have to start reprogramming them. Help them to see the joy of playing outside. Splash in the pool, race up the hillside, or go on a treasure hunt. There are so many free ways to enjoy nature and explore this world. So use that nifty phone of yours to search for free things to do in your city, then plan it and make it happen.
Stop using tech as a reward
Rewards are so important for children. They need to know that their work is valued, and they need to know that good behavior comes with reward, while bad behavior comes with consequence. But why do we use screen time as a reward for good behavior? If we want our kids to enjoy the simple things in life and have a healthy view of exercise, they need to be rewarded with things that don’t encourage them to be sedentary.
Make it your goal to reward your kids with fun outdoor activities. If they do well in school or complete all of their chores, reward them with a trip to the beach or the zoo instead of screen time. Bicycles and sports gear are both great gifts for older kids that are deserving of a reward. This doesn’t mean that kids should never have any screen time, because keeping up with changing technology will also be important as they grow. It just means that they should learn to enjoy their life unplugged as much as they enjoy their screen time…hopefully more.
Teach kids responsibility
This might not sound like it applies to an unplugged lifestyle, but it does. When we teach our kids to be responsible, we teach them that there are more important things in life than screen time. Our kids should help us clean the house, walk the dogs, and mow the lawn. They should learn the importance of taking care of our homes, our communities, and our earth.
Technology is a part of our lives now, and there is no getting around that. It should be used as a tool for success and a form of balanced entertainment, but it shouldn’t be the most important thing in our lives. While our children are young, we can take advantage of the time to teach them the joys of unplugging and playing outside. These lessons will stick with them forever and improve their quality of life, hopefully improving ours right along with them.
Article by: Cate Rosales