The Joys of Being an Outdoor Dad on Fathers Day

Apparently teenagers today are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder. That means they don’t get out much when it comes to interacting with the natural environment. You know, trees and rivers and the like.

But what role models do today’s teenagers have? Pop stars, footballers, and er, well, I can’t think of anyone else? You don’t get to see any of them doing outdoor activities in the wilderness.

So, perhaps you should be getting your inspiration and encouragement from a source a bit closer to home – your dad. Does your dad encourage you to spend time outdoors? Do you enjoy spending time with your dad outdoors? What makes a great outdoor dad?

I have been pondering this question lately as I watch other dads ignoring their children in the park while they lounge around looking fed up at being dragged out with the family, or shouting at them to stop mucking about when they create their own disruptive fun. There does seem to be a big disconnect between dads and their kids. Is this because they spend all of their time at work and not enough time playing with their children? Do they actually know the best way to interact?

Dad and his boys having fun swimming

I love the great outdoors, and as a dad I try my best to introduce my children to as wide a variety of outdoor experiences as I can . This doesn’t mean taking them on 10 mile hikes over mountains because it will do them good. I encourage them to try new activities and experiences, but it has to be fun. I provide guidance and knowledge from my years of experience as an outdoor adventurer, but also give them the freedom to learn and discover things for themselves.

This led me to thinking, “What makes a great outdoor dad?” With a lot of input from my children, here is my list of 20 things on how to be a great outdoor dad.

  1. Fun – Make every outdoor experience fun.
  2. Get a dog – The family will love the furry creature to bits, but it is you that has to go out in all weathers to walk the beast. Not forgetting those times when everyone else is tucked up in bed while you are out there in the driving rain and cold waiting for the little darling to do a poo. Or to come back when called, not.
  3. Camping genius – Be able to put up the family tent on your own in the pouring rain while everyone else watches from the safety of the car.
  4. Be adventurous
  5. Be safe – Test out trees and rope swings before they do. You do have to then let them have a go though.
  6. Cook an amazing meal over an open fire or on the smallest of gas stoves.
  7. Stand on the touch line of the football or netball match and shout encouragement without getting yourself banned.
  8. Be able to demonstrate every outdoor sport and activity to your kids and try to be better at it than them. This won’t last as they will soon learn how to be better and faster than you. No fear those kids, especially teenagers or those low to the ground. As a dad you feel the weight of responsibility for making sure you don’t break anything as you have to look after them and get and drive them all home after the holiday.
  9. Come up with amazing facts. Did you know that …?
  10. Do stuff with them. Don’t send them off on their own while you stay in and watch tv.
  11. Be able to run or walk great distances back to the car so that you can go and pick everyone else up on the so called circular route where they are too tired to walk the rest of the way.
  12. Bicycle repair man. Have a tool for every occasion and be able to fix everything, usually where over enthusiasm has led to a favourite toy breaking. Fixing bent derailleurs and twisted handlebars from unexpected dismounts. Still, at least it was the toy and not them.
  13. Lifeguard on the river rapids. Keeping up with the kids at water parks.
  14. Find your way anywhere. Even in the dark. Usually for finding holiday places late in the night whey of arrive down a narrow country lane. Also useful for finding your way to and from the pub when staying in new places.
  15. Give their inexperienced friends important advice when descending steep mountain bike trails, such as “keep it slow and use your brakes,” only to be ignored as they know better. Good job young bodies bounce better than older ones.
  16. Don’t be afraid of the dark (or anything, especially wild animals).
  17. Help to develop self confidence by showing them that they can do things – assault courses and mtb single track
  18. Develop independence
  19. Guide yet give freedom to learn and discover
  20. Enjoy spending time together. You never know how much you will have.

Have I missed anything? What is your dad like? Is your dad great outdoors? Let me know what you think makes a great outdoor dad on the Active Outdoors facebook page.