5 Things I Learned from Being Raised in the Outdoors

The best gift that a parent can give a child is the gift of the outdoors.

By: Austin Jackson + Save to a List

I grew up fortunate. No, I wasn't the richest kid, and I was never sporting the newest pair of Nikes. I was never the most liked or funniest kid in the class, but I was still fortunate. How, you ask? I was fortunate in the way that my parents gave me the best gift they could. That gift was the outdoors. 

Unlike many kids around me, I didn't grow up having weekend play dates. Rather, I grew up spending my childhood weekends hiking trails such as Angel's Rest with my mom, or camping at Silver Falls State Park with my dad. Not only did this teach me key lessons about things such as cleaning up after yourself or throwing away your garbage, but it also provided a bonding time that is essential for relationships between a parent and child.

1. Spending time outdoors can teach a child many lessons.

Although the non-stop questions and talking may get on your nerves, realize that this is an incredible learning opportunity for a child. For me, I know I learned much more on my four mile hike on the weekend than I did all week in the classroom. Asking questions about plants and animals and learning first hand in the outdoors is a much more effective way than on a screen in school. I found myself much more engaged in the outdoor setting than in a classroom. Not only was I able to learn about the outdoors, I was also taught lessons in leaving a place better than I found it. One thing specifically that I remember from my childhood was my dad always raking our campsite when we left. At the time, I thought this was ridiculous, but looking back, I realize that you are helping to preserve a place for others to enjoy.

2. Having a child doesn't mean that your weekends of exploring have come to an end.

If you found my article on The Outbound, I am going to assume that you enjoy your outdoor activities. Many people believe that once you have a child, your exploring career ends. Wrong! If you bring your child with you, not only do you get to teach them valuable lessons and spend quality time with them, but you also get to enjoy the great outdoors yourself. Better yet, find some buddies who also have kids, and make it a group ordeal!

3. Your children will thank you later.

When I was younger, I never realized how lucky I was to get the gift of the outdoors. It wasn't until I was nearly 18 that I realized just how fortunate I was. Now, I am not only able to use the outdoors as an escape from the everyday life, but it also gives me an outlet to continue to spend time with my parents. While many parents struggle to see their kids after they start college, the outdoors provides a great place to spend a day with my parents. While you take your kids outdoors when they are younger, they will return the favor and bring you outside when they are older.

4. Everyone involved will stay in good shape.

In a world so concerned by unhealthy children and an unhealthy population in general, what better way to get in shape than hiking outdoors. It is so hard to get your exercise when you work all week and your child has school. Making plans to get outdoors on the weekend can help you burn off those extra calories you may have accumulated during the week, and it will allow your children to burn off some extra energy and get in good shape.

5. Start your child young, and they will do amazing things as they get older.

While my parents started my outdoor experience with just hiking and car camping, as I have became older, my interests have become much more advanced. I still use the lessons that my parents taught me on my early adventures on my adventures today, which include things like backpacking, walking up icy rivers in a wetsuit, or 14 mile accidental day hikes. If you start your child young, imagine what they will do by the time they are your age and the amount of knowledge that they will gain is limitless.

Being an 18 year old still in college, I don't have any kids yet. While I hope to have children that I can bring outdoors one day, I am very grateful to have parents that taught me about the great outdoors. I believe that this is one of the best things you can do for a child. For those of you out there who have children, are thinking of having children, or will have children in the future, realize that spending time with your child will greatly enrich their childhood experience. Take it from a kid himself.

Hiking in Olympic NP with my Mom!

Hiking near the beach with my Dad!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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