I grew up in New York City on the 26th floor of an apartment building, so it probably isn’t too surprising that I am happiest indoors. But I don’t wish this for my daughters. I don’t want them to inherit my bug phobias, my outdoor anxiety and my fear of going a day without a shower. It helps that I have a happiest-in-the-outdoors husband, but to get my girls to love the outdoors, I have learned that I need to play a role, too.
We tend to associate outdoor play with boys, which can lead our girls towards all sorts of confidence and leadership weaknesses. Unfortunately, in my family where Dad loves the outdoors and Mom does not, we fit that stereotype and need to work extra hard to break it.
Here are 12 ways we have found to get our girls comfortable, confident, and happy in the outdoors.
How to Raise an Outdoorsy Girl 1 of 13
Encourage Her to Get Dirty 2 of 13
Support your daughter's outdoor comfort by giving her space to get dirty, to play in the mud and step in a puddle. If she isn't comfortable getting dirty, she will never be fully comfortable outdoors. Applaud her for digging in!
Teach Her the Basics 3 of 13
Every young child, girl or boy, should learn how to throw and catch a ball. Arriving in school gym class without knowing can have a ripple effect when it comes to athletic confidence. An additional perk: Playing catch is a great bonding activity. Work on shooting hoops next.
Watch the Sunset, See the Stars 4 of 13
Bring her outside as often as possible to watch the sunset, and later at night to appreciate the stars. Talk about the colors, the patterns, the lines. Try cuddling up with a book for special outdoor bedtime reading. Once she gains an appreciation for the sun and the stars, she can enjoy them forever.
Climb a Tree 5 of 13
Show her how strong her body is by teaching her to climb a tree. Here are some tree climbing safety guidelines. Once you follow those, limit the tendency to hover with "Be careful," and replace it with "Look how strong you are!"
Let Her Explore 6 of 13
The magic of the outdoors is that it is always changing. Give her time and space to explore; to collect leaves, catch a bug, or draw her name in the dirt with a stick. The more rope she has to explore in the outdoors, the more likely she is to fall in love with it.
Teach Her to Fly a Kite 7 of 13
Learning to fly a kite is a lifelong activity involving laughing and fun. Take her to the beach and work on it until she can get hers airborne. Here is a helpful video to check out before you begin.
Visit a Farm 8 of 13
Getting her acquainted with a farm is a great way to find a love of nature and the outdoors as well as have your kids appreciate fruits and vegetables. Find one in your area that welcomes children.
Get Adventurous 9 of 13
If you scream "eww" at the site of a sea creature, animal, or bug, chances are that she will, too. I remember a time when we were on vacation and my daughters found a lizard. My younger daughter picked it up and let it crawl up her arm. Boys walked by and they were terrified. Not only were the girls enjoying this, but the boys gained a new respect for them too. So if you are at all phobic or averse, stifle your inner voice on this one and encourage her to explore nature; to touch, feel and immerse herself in it.
Go Boating 10 of 13
The land, the water, you want to make her feel like the natural world is her oyster. Get out in a boat and explore the smells, the water and the views. Go tubing, waterskiing, kayaking or fishing. Do the same with snow. Play in it, ski in it, and go sledding.
Have a Picnic 11 of 13
Given my indoor-centric childhood, when given the choice of dining outdoors or in, I choose the latter. I can't remember a childhood picnic. Yet it doesn't take much to get there. If you have a lawn, bring a blanket and turn it into a picnic spot. The local park works too!
Go Picking 12 of 13
Whether it is pumpkin picking, apple picking, or strawberry picking, there is no better family activity. Check out the best seasons for your chosen fruit or vegetable, find a great spot, and add family picking dates to your calendar.
Go Hiking 13 of 13
There is no better way to see what nature has to offer than to hike through it. As with any outdoor activity, make sure she is dressed for the part. Sneakers and shorts or sweatpants will allow her to navigate the terrain more easily.
Click through for 12 ideas.