Outdoor Adventures for Your Tween

Encourage your tween to embrace the outdoors with these fun adventure ideas

Summer fun can also be adventurous.
An outdoor adventure will teach your child to see nature in a whole new way. iStockphoto.com

Today's children spend so much time indoors that they're losing touch with the natural world. "Nature Deficit Disorder"* is a term coined to describe problems today's kids face (including behavioral problems) due to so much time spent indoors. If you're worried that your tween has become a shut-in, and doesn't know how to interact with nature, don't worry, it's not too late. You can encourage your tween to find a whole new world full of discovery, science, and art -- and it's all right in your own backyard.

Outdoor Adventures for Preteens

A Color Hunt -- Tweens love treasure hunts, and this one has a theme anyone can embrace. Visit your local home improvement store for a sampling of paint chips. Hand the chips out to your tween and ask him and his friends to find the matching colors in nature. See if the tweens can identify the objects they find. 

Take a Hike, in Your Socks -- Sock Hunts have been popular with scouting groups for ages. Have your tween put on an unmatched sock over a shoe and take a walk through a field or the woods. At the end of the stroll, take the sock off and see how many seeds were collected by the sock. See how they attach to the sock. Plant one or two of the seeds to see what grows. 

Create a Masterpiece -- Collect various items from nature and have your tween create a work of art with them. You can collect pine cones, flowers, leaves, small pebbles, feathers, tree bark, grasses, seashells, etc.

See what your child can come up with when inspired by nature. Or, give your child a camera and ask him to create a photo montage from his outdoor pictures.

Take the Family Camping -- An overnight camping trip, either in your own backyard or at a local or state park, is a fun way to get the entire family excited about the outdoors.

If you're not a tent camper, a cabin can offer just as much fun. Find a camping site near you, plan a menu and take a break together.

Try Something Different -- If your child has never been canoeing, rafting, bodyboarding or skiing, see if there are any opportunities to try something new where you live. Even a hike through the woods at a nearby park is a great beginning to outdoor fun. Mountain biking is another option, or consider other possibilities where you live. 

Consider Summer Camp -- If your tween wants to go away to camp, consider a camp that specializes in outdoor fun. Adventure camps or outdoor camps will offer opportunities that your child might not be able to get anywhere else. Attend a camp fair to learn about opportunities where you live. 

Learn More About Outdoor Adventures -- On the next rainy day, have your child research some extreme outdoor adventure ideas. She can learn about rock climbing, spelunking, ice climbing, kitesurfing, etc. Have her find out what equipment is needed for the sport, what safety precautions are taken, and identify any athletes known in the sport. 

Note: Nature deficit disorder refers to the phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. The term suggests that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. A review of the book can be found here. 

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