White Cloud Mountains, Idaho.

10 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   9 Comments

By Michael Lanza

“That sounds totally boring.” “Other parents don’t force their kids to do things they don’t want to do.” “I hate (fill in the activity).” If you’re a parent of a teenager, you’ve probably heard these responses from your child, or any of an infinite number of variations on them—like a personal favorite that my son, at 14, laid on me: “You get to choose your friends, but you don’t get to choose your family.” If you’re trying to persuade a teen to get outdoors with you—which these days often entails pulling him or her away from an electronic screen to engage in physical activity for hours—your child can summon powers of resistance that conjure mental images of Superman stopping a high-speed train.

Read this and every story at The Big Outside! Please subscribe or log in now.

Get My Free Email Newsletter

Enter your email address for updates about new stories, gear reviews, and expert tips!

9 Responses to 10 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You

  1. Jernej   |  May 15, 2017 at 6:25 am

    Out of curiosity, what do your kids do on a typical day/weekend? Getting them out is more than just occasional hiking in cool remote locations.

    • MichaelALanza   |  May 15, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Hi Jernej, very good question, and in many respects, my kids (now both young teens) are similar to many of their friends and peers: They spend much of their weekday and weekend time indoors, using their favorite electronic devices, often communicating or playing with their friends (remotely or in person). At their ages, of course, they want to do what their friends are doing. (But my kids also play soccer and participate in other organized activities.)

      That’s where several of the above tips become very relevant, especially encouraging your kid to bring a friend–because if you get their friends interested, you have another force pulling your kid outdoors. I have many times taken my kids’ friends on our trips, and they’ve all had a great time. Once they recognize how much fun they can have outdoors, I find that my kids and their friends will organize their own local mountain bike rides, go skiing together, or kayaking, or to a local climbing gym.

      It’s a constant challenge to get this generation of kids outdoors. I think the way to meet that challenge is to introduce them to activities that excite them at least as much as, or more than what they do indoors.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. billshikingpage   |  April 28, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Great advice! We started when my youngest son was 8 (about the time you can really remember something) and picked a couple of National Parks a year, and the tradition has continued with both my sons even now in their 20s. The “doing something really cool” tip is important, as it can’t all be about hiking and scenic driving … e.g. taking the float trip down from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry in the Grand Canyon, always eating in a really good restaurant at least once per trip and reflecting on what they really liked or what they want to do next time, riding horses in Zion, hiking Half Dome or Cloud’s Rest in Yosemite, mountain biking or kayaking, or sharing park time with big city time, e.g. a baseball game in LA, SF, Seattle or Denver. Another thing to add would be allowing the kids to research and make suggestions about activities. There is more “buy in” when you have skin in the game during the planning process. Planning is extremely important – you want to have things “in the hopper” so you aren’t eating breakfast and the kids are saying, “Can we hang out at the pool?” Always have a list of more than you know you can do, so you have options based on weather conditions, opportunities that come up, etc … We are looking forward to our 2016 trip already!

    • michaellanza   |  April 28, 2016 at 8:55 am

      Hi Bill, thanks for those good suggestions. Since they were very young, we have routinely asked our kids after a trip, “What was your favorite part of it?” It gives all of us an opportunity to think and talk more about some positive aspects of the experience, which I think helps nurture a positive, lasting memory of it.

      • billshikingpage   |  April 28, 2016 at 8:59 am

        Great addition Michael… We even went a little further to put together a post trip report each time, with everyone contributing the superlative categories, e.g. best hike, worst hike, what hike would you want to do next time, best waterfall, best meal, etc. and mom, dad, and each boy filling it in – It’s fun to revisit the list!

  3. michaellanza   |  February 10, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Excellent suggestion, Robert, thanks very much for sharing that.

  4. Robert   |  February 10, 2016 at 8:56 am

    These are great tips!

    And if the parent isn’t particularly outdoors-oriented, consider sending the kids to a summer camp that is. Look specifically for a camp that offers a progression of trips that increase in difficulty. The kids will learn some great skills, and they’ll be surrounded by other outdoor-oriented kids thus making the outdoors the norm. You might have a hard time getting your child out of a sleeping bag (or into one), but when the child’s peers are all shouting, “hey, hurry up, you’ll miss breakfast,” well, nothing short of a drill sergeant is more motivational to a young person.

    I speak from experience. Neither of my parents enjoyed the outdoors beyond the patio or hotel room, but they sent me to camp where I gained a whole new perspective. Since camping wasn’t our family norm, camping to me became almost an act of rebellion, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. And, it’s something I’m passing along to my kids (both camp and camping with the family).

  5. MichaelALanza   |  January 19, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Hi Connie, I’m delighted to hear that, thanks for letting me know. I wish I could attend! If organizers would like to send me 2-3 questions via email before Friday, and read my responses aloud at the events, I’d be happy to do that. Please thank all of the attendees on my behalf for reading my book.

  6. Connie Schmidt   |  January 18, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Your book, Before They’re Gone is being discussed by the River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club next Sunday January 24 and Tuesay January 26 at the Lombard and Warrenville public libraries in Illinois. Thanks so much for your insights and observations on getting into the wild.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Like This Story? Get My Free Email Newsletter!

Enter your email for updates about new stories, expert tips, and gear reviews.

Grand Canyon Hiker