Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

How to get older kids outside: Let them F.A.R.T.

The group of preteen boys calls itself the FARTs. The boys say it stands for Friends Are Really Terrific, but really they just found a convenient way to use their favorite word. What the FARTs truly are: My very best bet for getting my eldest son to do anything new outdoors.

Parents of my son’s classmates take turns organizing outdoor adventures for the kids. It started with a couple of fathers who wanted a more purely-outdoors, no-meetings alternative to scouting, and they kindly invited the rest of us. Outings include river tubing, a treetop ropes course, backyard picnics, a city bike tour and, most recently, a geocache hike. Siblings often join in.
No complaints on this hike.

Let me try to illustrate the magic of this group. Let’s say I plan a short hike for our family, but my child would rather stay home and watch Star Wars IV for the 12th time. First, we attempt negotiation.

Me: “Come on, you’ll feel great after a walk and you can watch TV then.”
Son: “How much TV?”
Me: “Don’t worry about that now, just come on.”
Son: “No, it’s too cold/too hot/too early/too late/I have too much to do.”
Me: “How about we get ice cream after the hike (which used to work)?”
Son: “Nope, I don’t need it. I’ll stay home.”

Then, I try Tough Talk.
Me: “We’re all going, and you have to come, too.” After I repeat that several times, he stomps angrily out the door.  At this point, a less experienced parent might think she’s won. I know better. He comes along and maybe even enjoys it, but he won’t let me know that. Instead, the background noise on this hike is a steady stream of complaining and/or pre-adolescent attitude. If only he had that kind of endurance for hiking.

Which he does, if his friends are around. And that’s the beauty of the FARTs.
Found the cache!

It was a frosty December morning when the group of 10 kids and 6 adults tackled a steep, muddy trail to find a tricky, two-waypoint multi-cache. I heard no complaints about the cold or the fallen trees we had to scramble over. There were a few slips in the mud, but no one threatened to go back to the car. Everyone willingly pushed through brush and dug through wet leaves to search for a cache. One child quietly asked when we were going to eat, but the group overwhelmingly wanted to go on. We ultimately found three caches over about three miles.

I love using my GPS and smart phone app to find a geocache, but I don’t think my son does. That’s okay. There are so many other things to do on a walk in the woods, and it’s so much fun to do it with buddies. Everyone found a way to participate, whether it was finding a cache, leading the group through the maze of the park’s compost piles, scrambling over an enormous root system of a fallen tree or tackling friends during the picnic afterward.

I’m so grateful to the FART families, and to all of our friends who join us on outings or take my kids on their family adventures. I hope we can keep this going.

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