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10 Tips for Motivating Kids to Get Outside

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Nov 2015; updated May 2023.

Sometimes all we need, and all our kids need, is a little motivation to get outside. We provide 10 tips for motivating your kids to get outside.

10 Tips to Motivate Kids to Get Outside

The health benefits of getting outside have been well documented. But sometimes, good intentions don't always translate into actions.

As a family, we love getting outside, but motivation is still required. We all have very busy lives and sometimes it can be difficult to find a time when we can all go, but when we do, after a short while, any objections to getting outside are forgotten about.

We're not experts in motivating children - we're just parents trying to do their best - but we have picked up a few tips we're passing on here.

Tips for Motivating Young Children to Get Outside

Tip 1: Start Them Young

Starting kids getting outdoors while they are young

By far, the younger they are, the easier it is to get them to go outside.

You can engage them with words like 'going on an adventure' or doing a 'treasure hunt' ('geocaching') or doing a scavenger hunt.

Start your kids young enjoying going outside; you will make it easier when they get older.

Tip 2: Make it a family routine

Tip 2 Make it a routine

We've always tried to keep weekends free as family time. That means avoiding weekend kids' clubs, and doing them in the week instead.

Start a routine. Make a family commitment to go out every Sunday, for example.

We've always tried to do this at a minimum. Sometimes it's a walk, sometimes, it's doing an activity, and sometimes it's visiting somewhere like a National Trust property.

Once it's a routine that every Sunday, you all get out and do something together, it becomes just part of your family's life.

Tip 3: Take a picnic

Take a picnic

Apart from a picnic being a good way to break up a walk, people will want to go if you're taking lunch. At least that's the case in our family 😉

If you take the Sunday example above and still want your traditional Sunday lunch, then go out early and have the picnic as an early lunch, then push your 'big' Sunday meal to later in the day.

(Besides, you won't feel as guilty consuming those calories if you've burnt many beforehand).


Tip 4: Avoid making bribes

Tip 4 Avoid using bribes with kids

Bribes are never a good long-term strategy, and if you bribe with sweets, that's a double loose.

You want your kids to want to go out, or at the very minimum, expect it as the norm. You don't want them to go out to get a treat.

Tip 5: Get them interested

Tip 5 Get them interested

Do activities that get them interested.

Again, it will depend on the age of your kids, but if possible, get them interested in the animals and creatures outdoors, or motivate them with activities such as building a den.

If they like watching certain people on TV, use that. 'Let's try and spot a bird of prey like Steve Backshaw' or 'Let's build a shelter like Bear Grylls'.

Tip 6: Kit them out like Mum and Dad

Tip 6 Kit your kids out

That includes getting them a small backpack and get them to carry at least something of theirs.

You can even get backpacks for toddlers.

This not only teaches them from a young age to carry their own items, but it also motivates young children to be like grown-ups.

Tips for Motivating Older Children to Get Outdoors

But what about older kids?

As kids get older, they get more independent. They want to spend more time with their friends (although these days, spending time with friends happens more online than in person).

We know first-hand what this is like as your child goes through teenage years, and sometimes it can be hard to remember that their strive for independence is actually a good and natural thing.

If you managed to lay the foundation when they were young, then it may be easier when they are older, but there're no guarantees as our children seek their path to adulthood.

However, if they have maintained their interest in the outdoors, here are some tips for older children.

Tip 7: Let them plan and organise

Tip 7 Let kids plan

This could be the route, the picnic, or everything about it.

Let them lead when you are outdoors.

Tip 8: Take on some more challenging activities

Tip 8 Take on a challenge

Try Go Ape, rock climbing, or some other outdoor challenge.

Tip 9: Let them bring a friend

Tip 9 Invite friends

They can still be with their friends and be outdoors at the same time.

Tip 10: Continue to grow their interests

Tip 10 Grow their interests

The interests of teenagers can swap and change all the time, but if they have an interest in animals, go on a nature hunt. If they are interested in sports and being fit, stress how good being outdoors is and try some more energetic routes.

You could also try and introduce new interests. Scavenger hunts can be turned into photo scavenger hunts, where your kids try to photograph different things.