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Instilling the Love of the Outdoors in our Kids
Growing up, I spent weekends camping by the river with my mother’s family. The facts are we spent a lot of time at the lake near our home also. On Sundays, after church, a few of us kids would hit the lake wide-open. We would swim, play and eat bologna sandwiches with chips inside the sandwich. Those are some of my favorite memories. Those kids grew up, and today, we love each other just the same as we did on those banks 30 years ago.
When my husband and I had our boys, it was not a question if they would love the outdoors. They didn’t have a choice. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, hunting, fishing, camping, and boating are what we did. My boys still love it now as adults, and my 3-year-old granddaughter is learning to love it too! She loves going out on the boat, fishing, camping, and roasting marshmallows.
I can’t say that is the experience of most kids these days. Although Covid, with all its ups and downs, did cause a revival in outdoor activities. People began camping instead of theme parks, boating and swimming in the lake instead of the pool, and hiking instead of trampoline parks and inflatable parties.
As a teacher, I have witnessed a decline in interest in outdoor activities. I have seen a decrease in kids playing together in the parks or backyards and choosing to play online in a fantasy reality. If you notice, kids are digital beings. They text, not talk. They play online instead of outside. They do not exercise and get fresh air. At recess, they want to check Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, and their DM’s.
Forgive me if you think I am complaining about the technology. Those pros and cons are for another article. Lol
My question is, who dropped the ball? Not only did my parents, grandparents, and role models teach me the importance of nature through enjoying it but, more importantly, its gifts to us.
We learned about tilling the land, planting a garden, hoeing a garden, picking the fruits and vegetables, and preparing those things for future meals. I was taught how to can, how to freeze food, and how to make use of most of our trash. Coffee grounds for carrots, radishes, blueberries, and hydrangeas. Egg shells were broken and added to tomatoes and potted plants. Our elders showed us how to search for ginseng and other roots for teas and medication. And I know it isn’t popular, but you may one day need to know how to hunt and process your own meat. All this wisdom and knowledge is dying because of the technology and conveniences of our surroundings.
Are technology, the economy, and the future so secure that we will never need to use these bits of intelligence ever again? I am not so sure. Why take a chance? Why not teach our kids where they came from and how hard their ancestors worked to make sure the future was better than their past.
Many say that only certain people hold these things as important because they were raised in the south. More specifically, I was raised in the Appalachian Mountains. I hope that is not true. I hope that as parents, we want to install survival skills as well as an appreciation for their ancestors and the innovativeness of the past.
A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Memorial Day with our kids camping. It didn’t take long to figure out that this campground did not offer WiFi, nor did it have cell service. It warmed my heart to see kids on the playground, kids playing basketball, kids riding their bikes, and kids learning about nature while participating in a scavenger hunt.
Kids asked me what a four-leaf clover was and didn’t know what pine needles are. I had to chuckle when googling wasn’t an option they spoke to their elders. The adults were enjoying it just as much as the kids. I am sure it encouraged the elders to talk about their memories. Maybe the kids were inspired to know more about nature and their elders.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, 7 and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up.”
The Bible teaches us in this passage that we, as parents, must instill a love and reverence for the ten commandments. He instructs us to talk about them daily. We are required to include them in our daily life. This is our responsibility. The government has taken the ten commandments out of our schools and courthouses, which is sad, but it was not their responsibility to teach our kids these principles. It is ours.
2 Timothy 3:15-16 “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
The Bible should be read and taught in the home. It is not the preacher, the Sunday school teacher, or the school’s obligation to instill a love for God and His word in our children.
Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
God gave us this Earth to work it and keep it. Who is going to teach our children how? They are watching our actions more than our words, and they will model them. If you make God important, and you make stewardship important, so will they. So who is going to teach them? We are.
We will take them camping and teach them to leave the earth better than they found it. We will teach them how much we depend on the gift God gave us. It supplies our food, shelter, Oxygen, and water. It sustains our life, and we must work it and keep it.
Over and over in scripture, the stories and parables are repeated, using God’s creation as an example. We should teach our children and our grandchildren about life and death through the Bible.
I am a teacher as well as a writer. I remember a few years back, my husband and I set up a camping trip with about a dozen at-risk students from my after-school program. Most had never been camping. We also rented a pontoon boat and borrowed some kayaks. Those kids learned to build a fire, identify plants and trees, cook over an open fire, and bear safety. They also rode on a boat, maybe they jumped into the lake from a cliff, learned to fish, and learned to kayak for the first time.
A colonel in the army, who was also a teacher, volunteered to help teach them these things and impart some survival wisdom. They had the time of their lives.
The following year I decided we would take them to an amusement park because many had never experienced one. That idea was met with disappointment. What was I to do but cancel it, book the weekend at the campground, and rent the same pontoon?
Kids do not care about technology, amusement parks, or expensive trips as much as they care about attention. We gave them attention and explained how vital the knowledge was that they were learning. To them, it was like a rite of passage. It is still the memories of the annual camping trips that they continue to share, and that was over ten years ago now since our last one.
Watching those kids on Memorial day reminded me of those trips. They were excited to be getting the adults’ complete attention and working with them to accomplish a goal. Maybe even win a prize. Those who didn’t win the award still enjoyed the hunt.
Maybe you grew up camping but just got too busy to share that experience with your kids, or perhaps you have never been camping yourself. I strongly encourage you to consider it. This year gas prices are through the roof. Maybe it would be fun to check out the nearest national park instead. Pick up a book of camping facts or ideas. Peruse this website. There are a lot of great ideas to plan a vacation your kids will never forget!
We are going to be camping with our nieces and nephew next week. I know we will make lots of memories and play games as well as fish and kayak. We will cook on the fire and roast marshmallows. We will tell stories and stay up late. We will make memories! I hope this inspires you to make some of your own.
Psalms 78 1-4 Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth, bend your ears to what I tell you. I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb; I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths, Stories we heard from our fathers, counsel we learned at our mother’s knee. We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation—God’s fame and fortune, the marvelous things he has done.