Teach Your Kids How to Explore the Outdoors

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If you’re reading this, you probably value exploration and adventure.  It’s one thing to be adventurous on our own.  It’s a completely different challenge teaching our kids to be adventurous.  Sure, they may be great sports and are willing to tag along on all of our adventures, but how much of this do they know how to do on their own?

What it really comes down to is whether they know how to explore.  

Here are a few great tips for helping your kids develop the talent of exploration:


Start Simple – The easiest way to teach your kids to explore is in your own backyard.  Look under rocks, in trees, and behind bushes to see what you can see.  Test limits to see what you can create (a swing, treehouse, or maybe a slingshot).  Once your creative juices are flowing, exploring comes naturally.


Involve them in the planning process – When planning a trip, it’s natural to do a lot of research.  You find out the best adventures around, coolest places to stay, and tastiest places to grab a bite to eat.  This is actually one of our favorite parts of adventuring – seeing all the cool places we could go and things we could do.  Teach your kids to be great explorers by walking through the process with them.  Get them some books and let them create their own adventures.  Learn about the National Parks together and feed off of each others excitement!


Get down on their level – It’s amazing what you can see when you are actually looking.  Kids have an amazing ability to see wonder in the details that are often overlooked by adults.  Spend some time down on their level pointing out a few things to them, and watch their curiosity take off.  Although you may have to lead out here, you’ll probably end up being the one who is taught (by your amazing kids, or course).

Talk to the pros – One of the most valuable skills that any explorer can have is the ability to talk to other people.  Often, one of the best ways to learn about something is to ask someone who’s “been there, done that”.  Strike up a conversation with a ranger about the best hiking trails, a ski bum about powder stashes, or a kayaker about water conditions.  Make sure that your kids are by your side when you’re doing this so they will be able to learn from you.  As they get older, encourage them to think of questions they want to know answers to and bring them into your conversations.  Before you know it, your kids will be asking exploration questions like pros!


Walk the Walk – If you want them to explore, set the example.  A child who sees their parents excitement for adventure will want to join in and explore things out for themselves.  Likewise, a kid who sees their parents always lounging in front of the TV will be tempted to do the same.  You set the tone!

Teach Safety
– When you are teaching your children to be explorers, there’s a fine line between adventurous and dangerous.  The key to staying away from danger is skill and experience.  Help your kids define what their limits are and how far they can push them.  If you teach your kids to explore safely, it will be much easier to cut the ties and let them go off on their own once they have enough skill!


Recommended Products

Not For Parents: How to be a World Explorer by Lonely Planet
– Well the title practically says it all.  Well, except the part about not being for parents, because I LOVED IT!  It’s just one of those books that’s written for kids that’s so cool everyone should own a copy.  It’s broken up in to areas (jungle, desert, polar, mountain, water, air) and each section has tons of useful (and random) advice for exploring there.  Want to know how to ride an elephant?  DONE!  Survive an avalanche?  CHECK!  Navigate by the stars?  OF COURSE!  Not only does this book give great exploration advice, but the safety tips are top-notch!  Probably best for ages 8 and up, although it’s a fun one to read together with younger adventurers.


National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA – Living here in the United States, we are so fortunate to have an amazing National Parks system.  These parks show some of the most beautiful and unique parts of our country, so it’s no wonder they are so popular with families.  This book is an amazing way to introduce your kids to exploring the National Parks and planning adventures there.  Each park has a summary, map, ranger tips, extreme adventures, simple adventures, animal tips, and a checklist of great sights to see.  This book does an amazing job of picking the family highlights from each park and presenting them in a format that makes it easy for kids to sort through.  This book would be an excellent choice to introduce kids to planning big adventures!


Nature Activity Books by Waterford Press – These books are an excellent, simple resource for teaching kids about different ecosystems.  Each book has several activities and games to teach kids about the plants and animals that they can find there.  This fall, we were able to use a few of these to prepare for trips to Rocky Mountain and Canyonlands National Parks.  The kids enjoyed doing them at home, but while we were out on our adventures, it all clicked and they
were so excited about exploring.  Mason especially loved to origami and games that each book had.  These books come in two different sets, one for grades K-2 and one set for 3-5.  This was incredibly helpful because Mason could do these books pretty independently and feel good about it because it was right around his level (which is often hard to find for the early elementary grades).  These books would be great to pick up and take along on any trip (car entertainment anyone?).


One Lucky winner is going to win an awesome set of books to excite their young explorer: Not For Parents: How to Be a World Explorer, Kids National Parks Guide USA, and a set of Nature Activity books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Lonely Planet, National Geographic, and Waterford Press for supplying products for this review.

62 thoughts on “Teach Your Kids How to Explore the Outdoors”

  1. My tip for letting kids explore us to let the lead the way and give them the space to explore on their own. When we are at a campsite, we give our kids (9, 11) the freedom to roam within “shouting” distance.

  2. Slow down to their pace and just enjoy being with them and take time to see the world through their eyes – take lots of photos! Who cares when or IF we get there! Oh and take extra snacks and clothes, esp. for the little ones…….

  3. Don’t have an agenda. I always have to remind myself that we don’t need to get to a destination, have an educational component or even leave the yard to have an adventure!

  4. Too often we’re too concentrated on getting to the destination to enjoy the journey. Open your senses – stop and listen to the birds, feel the texture of the rocks and trees, smell the earthiness of the leaves on the ground, taste the freshness of a mountain stream, see the way the light filters through the trees.

  5. I really agree with getting down on their level. Not only does it help me focus on being in the moment, but getting a different perspective opens up what you’re seeing completely differently! Along with that, I’m a big believer in letting them set the pace! Instead of having the destination front and center, I’ve learned to make stops along the way and take the time to stop and watch a lizard or build a rock fort or just sit and listen.

  6. Gabrielle Pearson

    Really get out there and do it! I feel like that’s the first step honestly. A lot of us get tied up with normal, everyday life and technology that we don’t get out there. Get your kids out and moving, start the adventure today!!

  7. We try to make it our family thing – just what we do, so it’s second nature. I was so happy when last weekend it was nice weather and my 3 year old son said “Well, we better go hiking then”. Victory!

  8. My tip is to always make it fun. Whether you play Nature bingo, use a nature journal or just explore, it has to be fun for kids. Let ’em get dirty and have fun. They’ll love it.

  9. We play imagination the night before explaining what we will do. Our daughter is so excited the next day to go.

  10. This happens to be the same as my best fitness tip DO IT! The best way to find out what you need and don’t need is to open the front door and step out. Start with an overnighter near by figure out how it goes and then set a date and go.

  11. My best tip is plenty of time.

    We also stop sometimes and take pictures in our mind’s eye. Then when we get back home we share our favorite pictures with each other 🙂

  12. Let them help pick what to do and where to go. That way you’re getting involved in something they are interested in.

  13. When exploring with my children I like to pull in science type questions asking them why they think something in nature is the way it is.

  14. We like to turn long waits or car rides into a game. The sillier, the better. But “I spy” is our old standby for keeping everyone entertained.

  15. My best tip is be patient. You can’t rush exploring. Let them take their time. They may find something you would have never looked at. Give them a camera. I LOVE seeing what they see at their eye level. It can be truly amazing!
    valerie at its-the-simple-things dot com

  16. Letting them look around to their hearts content – not rushing them thru an area!!!(HollyC) Thanks for the chance….

  17. Involve your kids in planning out the trip. Have them hold the map and choose the path that you will take. If you have more than one kid you can have them take turns between leading the way, holding the map, and organizing the snack and water breaks. Making them a part of the process brings so much more enjoyment to the activity.

  18. Be excited about and share interest in what they’re excited about and make sure they know what you love and are excited about. Kids are easily influenced so while they’re young spark a love for what you love.

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