Digital distractions and an always-online culture are slowly making it more difficult to share a love of the outdoors with your child. Sometimes, finding a way to make playing in a sandbox as appealing as a cartoon marathon can seem nigh-on impossible, but it doesn't have to be. All you need is a handful of the right ideas and the patience to show your child what they're missing.
Don't over-complicate things
Start off the process by taking a deep breath and internalizing the fact that you'll have to be partially hands-off for this whole experience to go well. Giving your child free reign of the world isn't necessary, but loosening up restrictions on how they approach their curiosity with the outside world is key.
It will doubtlessly be a dirty, messy experience, and there will be plenty of scraped knees and minor problems to iron out along the way, but keeping things simple and easy for your children to grasp is a very strong first step.
Let them walk
If you start early enough, letting a child walk on their own helps establish important ideals before your child may be old enough to realize them. Walking instead of being carried or pushed in a stroller helps them acclimate to physical exercise. By taking their locomotion into their own hands, a sense of freedom is granted that positively reinforces their link between being outside and moving freely with freedoms and independence.
Don't give up
It probably won't be easy at first. Letting a child explore freely will likely give you second thoughts and concerns, but it's important not to double back on your decisions at this point. Consider the concept of free-range parenting and its boons when compared to the standard downfalls of helicopter parenting; Without being propped up and endlessly coddled their whole lives, not only are you encouraging independence at an age early enough for your child to grasp, you instill healthy life goals.
Your child will be more likely to depend on themselves and not get caught up in the world around them in unhealthy ways, nor will they be as driven to live off of others or make themselves a burden.
Live by example
Live how you want your children to live. If you want them to enjoy being outside, go outside with them and show them how to enjoy it. Take your family out for a camping trip, show them the joys of fishing, or take a small wilderness hike through a calm patch of nearby woodland.
It's important to share your interests with your children regardless of what they are, but finding something you both enough offers a strong anchoring point to build off of later; Enjoyment of fishing can lead to other water-related activities, for example, like canoeing or swimming.
Keep things fun
If your only outdoor excursions are for chores, chances are your children are going to associate the outdoors with chores. It's a simple and unpleasant fact and that connection is easily avoided with a little planning and imagination.
Find ways to make time outside your home more enjoyable whenever possible. When engaging with your child in an activity, introduce side activities they might find enjoyable; A simple game of tag can break up a lull in a fishing trip, or take a few minutes to let them dig for their own worms or chase a frog. If they have a favorite snack, make sure to pack it and offer it up during your trips to build further positive connections. It's not just about the activity and finding enjoyment in whatever you do, but more about enjoying time you spend together that truly counts.
It's for a good cause
Strong life habits grow from outdoor activity and your child will develop stronger for having tried it. The benefits are many, ranging from improved motor skills and balance to promoting creativity, intelligence, and problem-solving abilities. It may be daunting when your child insists on playing outside on a rainy, mud-soaked day, but remember: Cuts are temporary. Clothes can be washed. Child development is forever.
Opening the door to the outside world in literal and figurative ways will help your child develop and give you a few more moments of free time in your preciously packed schedule. You might even find some therapeutic relief in spending more time outdoors rather than watching your child's cartoons over their shoulder, and there's nothing to lose from a little more time spent with your children.