Carrots (tricks?) for luring the little ones outdoors

Raleigh’s Dana Hughens likes to stay fit, isn’t crazy about gyms, likes to be outside, but admits to being a “bit of a wimp in cold weather.” She took up running, ran her first marathon — City of Oaks — in November. She’d like moving outdoors to be more of a family thing; Alas, her 8-year-old son Jackson “is extremely artistic & sometimes more ‘indoor-inclined.” Any thoughts, she wondered, on how to get him outside?

Use his passion to entice him outside, Dana. In the parenting trade, we call this “using carrots.” Or tricking them.

Case in point. Saturday, Marcy and I decided it would be good to get the kids — ages 11, 14 and 15 — out on a hike. Long faces greeted our proposal. “Everybody takes a camera, we all take pictures, then we’ll do a slide show this evening,” Marcy threw in to sweeten the pot. Just what was needed to get us over the “I don’t wanna” hump. We ended up hiking about 5 miles and took scads of pictures, mostly with digital point-and-shoots. Here’s how it went.


You have to love a kid’s perspective — and attention span. “Let-me-take-a-portrait-of-you-mom” apparently turned into “Hey!-A-squirrel!” in a flash.


Kids may see things you miss. This shot of sunlight reflecting off Reedy Creek is a quintessential winter image.


While the tendency for adults climbing a hill is to look down — so you don’t stumble over tree roots and rocks and because you don’t have the energy to look up — kids are all over the place. These billow altocumulus clouds caught the eye of one of our hikers who took a moment to look up.


Take the kids for a walk in the woods, you need to be tolerant of some weirdness. Walking across a bridge is so predictable. Why not turn it into a life-threatening — or at least potentially pant-wetting — event and inch across just using your fingertips.


Perhaps not our most flattering sides, but hardly your cookie-cutter, grip-’n’-grin portrait, either.

Let the kids express themselves, sneak a little fresh air into their lungs in the process.

Got a favorite carrot/trick for getting the kids outdoors? Feel free to share.

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