Whether you’re an outdoorsperson or not, hopefully by now you’ve seen the positive impacts outdoor adventure can have on your teenager. More and more research has shown us how important it is for all of us to have that exposure to the natural world. While the summer offers an easy way for teenagers to get their fill of the outdoors, the typical hustle and bustle of family life leaves little room for outdoor recreation for most of us.
While organizing outdoor activities for the family can often seem like an unreachable goal, it’s easier than it seems. Many fun outdoor adventures can be accomplished with just a single day, or even several hours—you don’t need a full two weeks to get outside and reap the benefits of nature.
Hiking is an incredibly fun and informative activity, and you don’t need a five-day backpack in a remote area to appreciate all of the benefits. Taking an hour or two out of your week to take your kids for a walk in the woods is a great way to get some outdoor adventure time. It requires minimal skills, equipment, and resources. Most major cities have nearby nature preserves with surprisingly beautiful hikes.
However, while hiking is great, it can sometimes be a challenge to get teenagers to commit to going on a hike. Fun games, like geocaching, can be a great way to combine hiking with a different kind of adventure. Geocaching is a treasure-hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (usually a container) hidden at that location. It’s really fun, and you can pitch it to your kids as the original Pokemon Go! If you’re interested in finding more about geocaching in your area, you can check out this helpful resource.
If you’re in search of a water-based adventure, there are several activities you can do with minimal help. Day trips on beginner-friendly rivers make for great outdoor fun, and most require minimal prior knowledge or experience. Many lakes and rivers have outfitters that offer self-guided canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboarding adventures. It’s a great way to spend time with the whole family in an active outdoor setting. If you’re interested in finding paddling opportunities near you, check out this great website.
Want to to take it up a notch? Don’t shy away from utilizing an outfitter or guide service. There are usually options for whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and outdoor rock climbing within driving distance of many areas. If you’re interested in taking your teenager or whole family on one of these kind of adventures, it’s wise to seek out the help of a qualified professional.
If you’re able to free up a whole weekend to take the family on a fun outdoor outing, car camping provides a positive outdoor experience without pushing your less outdoorsy family members (which may be you!) outside of their comfort zones. Many car camping sites offer amenities like flushing toilets, while still offering you the chance to be immersed in nature. You can go as rugged, or as stylish and comfortable, as you like. Stores like REI or EMS can help outfit you with as much or as little gear as you want to purchase.
If weekend trips are simply out of the question for you as a parent, there are still options for you to help your teenager further his or her outdoor dreams. If your child has an interest in rock climbing, local indoor rock climbing gyms can be just what you’re looking for. Most climbing gyms offer excellent “bouldering,” which means climbing at low heights without a rope, often not leaving the ground higher than eight feet and staying over soft foam pads. Bouldering offers the opportunity to work on the physical and athletic parts of climbing, and anyone can participate. Climbing gyms offer routes for all ability levels, and professional instruction is usually available as well.
While you may not have the time or experience to take your family on an Adventure Treks–style trip, it’s surprisingly easy to incorporate some outdoor time into your lives. You don’t need to be an outdoor educator to reap the rewards of integrating the outdoors in your life.
– By Josh Goldbach