Nurture A Love for the Outdoors
When my daughter was 6 months old, my husband and I took her on her first hike. Though she was strapped into her carrier, it was the first time she was exposed to being around nature without any sounds of a neighborhood or city. I wanted her to love the outdoors growing up in a way that I didn’t appreciate until adulthood. Through moments of being too hot, too cold, or having to go further than expected, character is built.
Natural Falls State Park
Here are three ideas to help nurture a love for the outdoors in your child.
Let them get dirty.
I realize that many children go through phases where they want to be clean all the time, but, in general, I want my daughter to know it is perfectly fine to be a girl and also play in the dirt. Baths and showers exist for a reason. I have a fond memory of the first time we set up a sprinkler for my daughter. She teetered through it over and over until the grass all around was muddy, and so was she.
Plus, we’ve all heard from our parents or grandparents that it “healthy for kids to play in the dirt.” It turns out there is some science behind this. Exposure to microbes and other healthy bacteria in dirt are said to bolster the immune system. Check out this NPR story from a few years ago on the topic of kids getting dirty.
Hiking at Robbers Cave State Park
Lastly, being dirty allows a child to explore their world in a new way and know things do not have to look picture-perfect all the time.
Practice sustainable living
It is never too early to teach kids about sustainable living in simple ways. On a recent visit to the Tulsa Botanic Garden we had fun reading about sustainability initiatives. Each time we visit, my daughter is building on her understanding of what she can do to help the environment. At home, we focus on the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), but when her favorite places do it, the wow factor kicks in.
When kids swim in lakes, hike, or play in their own backyard, teaching them about air pollution and the need for us to care for the planet comes together. Planting a tree or garden is also a way to demonstrate our responsibility as humans to care for the earth.
Overall, if you teach children to care for outdoor environments, when they become adults they will want to pass it on to future generations in a better way than they inherited it. In that way, nurturing a love for the outdoors is partially about teaching kids to enjoy it while simultaneously teaching them to care for it.
Allow kids to learn about different types of outdoor environments
People have certain outdoor environment preferences, just like they have certain preferences for food or clothing. Kids might prefer the ocean, mountains, plains, desert, or some combination of these. In other words, don’t expect your child to love every outdoor environment. Of course, the ocean is a far drive, but there are some unique places within our state that are ideal for teaching kids about different types of outdoor environments.
Here are a few Oklahoma outdoor favorites:
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma offers a desert-like appeal. The drive is about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Tulsa.
Natural Falls State Park features a 77-ft waterfall. The drive is about 1 hour from Tulsa.
Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska is a magical place where bison roam. It is about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Tulsa.
Robbers Cave State Park offers amazing views and a famous outlaw cave to explore. It is located southeast of Tulsa near Wilburton and is about a 2 hour drive from Tulsa.
Though we love staying warm, my daughter and I prefer snow. We were thrilled to have some amazing snow days in Tulsa this year and love going other places where we can enjoy even more snow. Watching her little legs stomp through the snow inspires me. I know she uses every ounce of energy in her body because she loves it so much. Does she get cold and tired? Absolutely. However, we have taught her how to keep pushing through, and I hope the lesson serves her well in a life where she enjoys the outdoors wherever she goes.
About Amanda Murphy:
Amanda Murphy is passionate about what parents can do to enhance and supplement their child’s educational experience outside of the classroom. She believes in a model where kids grow up excited to learn, which starts with the parent or caregiver. As mom to a very bright and active 5-year-old girl in a not-as-active pandemic world, Amanda is constantly seeking out new ways to tie learning into real life to keep her daughter engaged. This involves outdoor exploration, a focus on literacy, building imagination, learning toys, and much more. Her belief is that each child is born with a passion for learning, but that harnessing it correctly is essential. Equally, she believes all children are smart, just in different ways.
Amanda was born and raised in Tulsa where she attended the University of Tulsa before earning graduate degrees in management and new media studies at Northwestern University and DePaul University in Chicago. After work took her to the East Coast, she moved back to Tulsa in 2014. She is married, and in addition to her young daughter, has a stepson entering his teen years. Amanda consults through her business, Lemons 2 Empires.