10 Tips for Motivating Kids to Get Outside

July 23, 2016

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 by no means experts in motivating children – we’re just parents trying to do their best – but we have picked up a few tips that we’re passing on here.

Tips for Motivating Young Children to Get Outside

Tip #1: Start Them 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, and you will make it easier when they get older.

Tip 2 Make it a routine

Tip #2: Make it a family routine

We’ve always tried to keep weekends free as family time. That means avoiding weekend kids clubs, 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 (NT Membership really helps keep the cost down).

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

Tip #3: Take a picnic

Apart from a picnic being a good way to break up a walk, if you’re taking lunch, then people will want to go. 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 a whole before hand).


Tip 4 Avoid using bribes with kids

Tip #4: Avoid making bribes

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 just 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 your kids out

Tip #6: Kit them out like mum and dad

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, it motivates young children to be like the grown-ups.

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 on-line 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.

Tips for Motivating Older Children to Get Outdoors

Tip 7 Let kids plan

Tip #7: Let them plan and organise

This could be the route, the picnic, or everything about it.
Let them lead when you are outdoors.

Tip 8 Take on a challenge

Tip #8: Take on some more challenging activities

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

Tip 9 Invite friends

Tip #9: Let them bring a friend

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

Tip 10 Grow their interests

Tip #10: Continue to grow their interests

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 have an interest 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.

Do you have any tips to share?

If you have any tips you’d like to share, add them to the comments below.

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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. Great to see hints and tips return rather than just product reviews, keep it coming some great tips here

  2. Reply
    Annelisë Pilkington
    November 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    We never bribed our kids but we have used small incentives along a route (not to convince them to go outdoors) as they are too young to understand time or distance properly. We might say you can have a banana or a small treat when we’re halfway which helps them to understand a bit more and helps them when they’re lagging a bit. The other tip I would give is start as soon as they could walk. We did, and it has really helped build their stamina as well as make walking part of their norm. If we are doing a big walk we plan it in advance and show them pictures etc of things we’ll see on the route to help them get excited. Nowadays, both of my kids (4 & 5yrs) would rather be outdoors than in and both have a love of nature and wildlife. We’ve seen many benefits to it too, they learn about nature, get exercise and they have both grown in confidence.

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