Top tips for an active Christmas with teenagers

It’s no secret that spending time outdoors is good for your health, it’s great for your wellbeing and is a real boost for your energy levels. After three months of being back in the classroom (or self-isolating in year groups), the Christmas break is an ideal opportunity to get outside, reconnect with nature and spend some time together as a family – and it doesn’t just have to be the post-Christmas Lunch or Boxing Day walk! So, whether you have a technology-obsessed weather-shy teenager who you need to crow bar out the door, or one who is dedicated to dragging you outside whatever the weather and is always on the hunt for the ‘next adventure’, we have put together some top tips for getting you all out enjoying the outdoors this Christmas:

  • Bring your bubble! A day out will always seem more fun with friends in tow – just make sure they’re in your Christmas ‘bubble’.
  • Make it a challenge. What kind of adventure would inspire your young person? The highest peak, the longest walk, somewhere they’ve never been before or something they’ve never done –  a river paddle, exploring a cave, mountain biking, bushcraft skills, climbing outdoors, making a shelter, tree climbing…
  • Don’t make it about your agenda. Just because you think caving/climbing/hiking is amazing doesn’t mean your teenager will – think about what would interest them.
  • Not a walk! Rather than announcing that you are all ‘going for a walk’ which to many teenagers has no purpose or appeal, make it something much more fun: going out on a photography project, or to make an adventure film, or to collect firewood for that campfire they’re keen to light and cook on that evening. Make the walk incidental rather than the purpose of your outing.
  • Give your teenager control. Let them choose the activity / route (and be prepared … a young person who becomes obsessed with adding steps onto their fitness tracker could quickly exhaust a parent who just wanted a gentle stroll!)
  • Do a deal. You get to choose an activity they have to do, then they can choose one for you. 
  • Use technology. Get a GPS gadget or fitness tracking app; try geocaching or games like Pokemon Go.
  • Make it a game. Buy some camo paint – or make your own out of face cream and mud – and get some camouflage clothes, then get your teenager to hide whilst you’re out and about. Or set a series of games or challenges along the way. You could even set clues for them to follow and discover the route.
  • Walkie talkies. Give your teenager the freedom to explore further afield, scout out the route ahead then give you navigational instructions.
  • Set a big goal. It’s got to be something you are all up for (walk the South West path, climb the 3 peaks, have an overnight expedition with friends) then work up towards it with mini adventure / training days within your local area.
  • Be the student. If your teenager is involved in any clubs or activities independently from you, ask them to teach you the skills they’ve learnt there i.e. if they are doing DofE, can they teach you how to map read? Or if they have been kayaking can you organise a family day out where they teach you how to kayak?
  • Kit check! Make sure you are all warm, dry and comfortable with decent well fitting gear that you are comfortable wearing. Who would enjoy being outdoors if they’re cold, wet, have sore feet or feel uncomfortable? And pack a torch or two as it gets dark early at this time of year.
  • Don’t always try to please everyone. Sometimes make it 1:1 time, especially if you are a busy family. Plan a trip out just for one parent and one child. 
  • Pack an amazing packed lunch. A flask of hot chocolate or plenty of nutritional but tempting snacks to keep their energy up can work wonders.
  • A good old fashioned bribe or some kind of reward at the end. Cake in a cafe, fish and chips on the beach or collect some sticks while you’re out and get them to help you make a fire and get involved in cooking dinner on it when you’re back home.

Don’t underestimate the resilience young people have when they are doing something they want to be doing; you may find they are more weather-proof than you think, can teach you a thing or two and may inspire you to take on a new challenge yourself. So make time to get outside this Christmas and take your teenagers with you – if it’s not the other way round!