British Columbia·Point of View

How to get your kids off the screen and on the trail to embrace the great outdoors

Spending time outside isn't always easy, but it's always worth the effort. Just don't forget to pack the snacks!

Getting your offspring outside isn't always easy. How can parents persuade kids to take a hike?

With a little planning — and a lot of snacks — parents can get their kids to embrace the great outdoors. (Evgeniy Pavlovski/Shutterstock)

This story is part of Amy Bell's column Parental Guidance, which airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

When I had my kids, I felt it was my duty to get them outside and soak up everything supernatural B.C. had to offer. "My children will be one with nature!" I thought. 

However, the uncomfortable truth is that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, my children will be dead weight if we have to traverse the backcountry. They are weak. They complain. And, much like their mom, they don't care to stray too far from the comforts of home.

But as they increasingly spend their time with their faces glued to a glowing screen, how do I get them to connect with the great outdoors? 

A quick look at Instagram shows plenty of proof that other families are conquering Quarry Rock and gleefully heading up the Grouse Grind.

But those excursions have ended in disaster for me. It takes hours longer than it should, my children are sweaty and slow and I've ended up wanting to hurl obscenities from the top of a mountain peak rather than enjoy the view.

Adjust your goals

I reached out to Sheena Mista and Samantha Palmer, who run the website Little Adventures Co. They know it's tough to tackle the wild with kids, so they developed their site as a guide to help parents pick age-appropriate activities and give solid advice about adjusting their goals.

"We have this expectation that we're going to hike to the top of a mountain with our kids — that seems to be the perception of what getting outdoors means to a lot of people," says Palmer.

"In fact, it's just being outside … even just being in your backyard." 

Not every family is like the Trudeaus — seen here on a hike near Kokanee Lake in 2013 — but if you start your outdoor adventures small and get the kids involved in planning, you can work toward reaching greater heights. (

Even if a parent figures out a time and place to make a break from civilization, convincing the kids is another story. They're tired and there's no Wi-Fi in the forest!

But here's a hot tip: Let the kids really feel involved with the planning and prep and they'll be more likely to disconnect from their iPhone and connect with you outside. 

"Nowadays, kids want to have a lot of input into what they do," says Cynthia Berg with the Lower Mainland based charity Nature Kids B.C. "They love to take action. They're change-makers." 

We live in a beautiful part of the world, but like the entire world it's at risk of being pushed to the point of no return.

I want my children to not only embrace nature but have a desire to protect it. And I want it to protect them, too — from the anxiety, stress and distraction that is constantly inundating their senses.

But big leaps start with baby steps, and if stomping to the top of Kilimanjaro isn't in the cards just yet, that's OK. Sitting on a small patch of quiet grass or taking a few moments to walk around the block and take a big breath can do wonders for anyone.

Manage your expectations, and maybe next time you'll hit the higher peaks — just make sure you pack enough snacks!


Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.


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