In my fairly lengthy experience dealing with kids in and about outdoor activities, I have found that they are like sponges when it comes to absorbing information. It is rare to find a child who isn’t interested in nature and the environment. Sadly too many youngsters (and adults) have become addicted to the small screen and the escape it has to offer. That is a great challenge to adults trying to show them there is a world beyond sitting at home, being hypnotised by an electronic device. The adult needs to accept that they are the entertainment committee, at least for the first few times outdoors until the child finds this new adventure is actually fun and entertaining. Basically it is the adult’s responsibility to make sure the child is having a good time.
First off, keep the experience within their physical capacity and attention span. Consider their age and keep everything positive, avoiding any criticism which can make this new experience unpleasant and not likely to be repeated. This can be extremely challenging to an adult with high expectations and minimal patience. That may include all of us. You are the “leader,” but they don’t need to feel that.
Safety is paramount, but the child needs guidance (where to look and explanations) and needs to feel a little bit free to explore to touch, smell and see. Creativity is a great skill on the adult’s part. Have simple word games or others (“I Spy”) is a classic with no props. Sing a song together or teach the child one for future ventures.
Children crave food, so always have some favourites such as marshmallows, s’mores, smokies, juice, or a favourite beverage in a water bottle. Carry GORP or small chocolate bars as surprise treats or hidden treasures.
Take your phone/camera, as they all like to have their photo taken and it helps them relive the experience when they talk about it with others. Group selfies are especially popular, especially 20 years later when reminiscing.
It’s the adult’s role to always be positive, creating fun and enjoyment for the youngster. Falls, scrapes, etc. are inevitable, but reassurance and positivity from the adult can minimize this. A small first aid kit should come along as “owies” can happen and a band-aid has magic powers.
In these situations, the adult is opening new doors to the child and, if done positively, patiently and entertainingly, will hopefully plant a seed that lasts forever.