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Getting Kids Outdoors: Empowering Your Homebody Child

When given the choice to go on a hike on a beautiful day or sit inside with his toys, my son will always choose to stay inside: this is because he is a major homebody. We still try to be an outdoor family as much as we can with a goal to get our kids outside every day. In order to get our kids into nature with them feeling excited and comfortable (or at least not dragging their feet), we use these ideas that I learned while working as a behavior instructor for elementary-aged children: 

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Getting Your Homebody Child Outside 

  1. Prepare them ahead of time:

A lot of homebodies have anxieties about unfamiliar places and not being in control of their surroundings. Giving advanced warning gives them time to process what’s coming and to feel more comfortable leaving home. A day before you go on your outing (or earlier depending on the child), let them know where you will be going and walk through what the outing will look like. Example: tomorrow we are going hiking in the mountains. We will have the chance to see animals and throw rocks in a lake. It might be warm when we are out so we are going to bring some water and snacks and you can pick which of your hats you want to wear. 

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A step further with this idea would be to create a map as you tell your child what you will be doing and let them color it in or add their own touches to it. Then, save the map for them to hold onto and reference during the activity. 

  1. Address concerns: 

Once you’ve told your child the plan, ask them what they think and listen if they have any concerns. These can sound like complaints, (I don’t want to have to go on a long walk, I don’t want to leave my toys behind, what if it rains?..etc). These complaints are a blessing in disguise because they give you an idea of what things to be prepared for and what things you can talk through ahead of time (“if your legs get tired we can take a break” “the weather forecast says it’s going to be sunny tomorrow but you can bring”). 

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  1. Find ways to involve them: 

Kids will be more engaged with an activity if they have personal ways of being involved. This can look a lot of different ways so here is a list of ideas to involve your child: 

  • Let your child pick some songs to listen to while driving to the activity
  • Have them pick out a small toy to bring
  • Pick up some children’s gear like binoculars or a children’s first aid kit that they are in charge of. 
  • Keep a record of the things you accomplish or places you go like these National park scratch-off posters:

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  1. Accept what they can give:

Some days will be a victory simply because you got out of the house. Adding in extra pressure of hitting a certain mileage or staying out for a certain time can create unnecessary stress that will make the next outing harder if your child feels like they can’t keep up with your expectations. In fact, praise any effort they gave and finish the outing with some positive compliments to help build their confidence. 

If you do want to put in some more miles while not pushing your child, consider bringing a Trail Magik carrier along that you can pull out when your child has hit their limit. 

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By: Hayley Haws 

Hayley is an outdoor photographer who wanders the Wasatch
Mountains with her husband and two sons. Before focusing on
photography she worked as a Special Education teacher.

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