Mother and tween son are outdoors in the winter. The mom carries hiking poles and her son carries a camera. Both are looking at the camera screen, smiling.

6 ways to motivate tweens and teens to get active outdoors

Even if you’ve created an outdoorsy family culture during the younger years, kids tend to push back on nature time as they get older. Here’s how to gently encourage them to put down the Fortnite and TikTok and engage in more active family fun.

1. Try a thrilling, outside-the-box activity

If you live in a snowy climate, chances are your kids have been sledding, skating or even snowboarding and skiing. But have they tried something unique like fat biking? Consider checking the offerings in your local area and renting a bike for the day. You can get them excited by watching YouTube videos and helping them visualize how great it could be to try something new. Same goes for summer activities like sailing or horseback riding.

2. Suggest a photography project to spruce up their room

Tweens love their space to feel like it reflects their personality. So pack up the camera and suggest a bunch of cool places to take photos. Get the photos printed and framed to hang on their walls. Bonus: The photos will serve as a reminder of all the amazing outdoor adventures that await when they’re willing to go. Some ideas: A picture of them skating at an outdoor rink à la Joni Mitchell on frozen Lake Mendota, family pictures in front of frozen waterfalls (that you have to hike to get to), or a photo journal of a family day out.

3. Pay them to shovel the driveway (or help them start a neighbourhood business)

Tweens are highly motivated by having their own money to spend on what they wish. Encourage them to head out on snowy days and knock on neighbours’ doors to ask if they need shoveling done (for $5 a driveway). You can also help them make flyers to post around the neighbourhood—which also requires a walk outside. In the summer, same goes for lawn care and gardening tasks.

4. Make a video

If they’re into taking videos, give them what they want. Promise to be their videographer as they do cool skiing, sledding, tubing, or snowboarding “tricks.” Later, you can watch the videos together and they can share them with friends (and hopefully motivate their friends to join them next time).

5. Sign them up for an active, outdoorsy sport

There are so many incredible sports centred on outdoor recreation. While any sport that gets their body moving is good for them, having that connection to nature is always an added bonus.

In the winter, try cross-country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or skating. In the summer, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, or mountain biking are all great ways to get outdoors for some nature time. Arrange for them to enroll with a friend to make it even more enticing.

6. Mandatory family hike day—but let them choose the trail

If all else fails, make it mandatory. Insist (kind of like we did when they were toddlers) that even though they might not like the idea of a hike or outdoor time, that you’re their parent and it’s your job to keep them healthy and safe—which includes nature time. Involve them in choosing the destination by suggesting some of the cool natural wonders you can check out and letting them make the final call. If this suggestion is met with a “who cares?” from your tween, then let them know that you care, and then go ahead and pick the destination you’re most excited about yourself.

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