As a mother of two very girly little girls I’m often surprised when I hear a kid won’t go outside because they are “too girly.” Does that mean they are too fragile? Too anxiety prone to be uncomfortable?
All kids need fresh air and wall-less spaces to explore.
Raising a feminine leaning child to grow up loving fresh air is just as essential as the easy-to-get-outside-always-covered-in-mud kid.
Fresh air and open spaces ease our children’s anxiety and gives them a sense of autonomy.
By trying to avoid uncomfortable, agitating and scary environments, we are actually increasing anxiety, and gifting them the inability to assess risk and listen to their intuition.
Embrace the Differences
A ten day backpacking trip when I was 14 years old opened my eyes to the vast spectrum of how girls build confidence on the trail.
When the counselors were briefing us for the trip they told us we were allowed to bring make-up and deodorant (as opposed to previous years) but that we would be putting in a lot of miles and small items would get heavy. Pack-it-in, pack-it-out.
My cabin-mates walked away excited they could bring all the accessories. I walked away excited I didn’t have to bring deodorant (and made it a contest to see how little I could bring). Rational, right? Don’t worry, I’m still close with my many of these people.
On that trip I watched my dear friends painstaking put mascara on in tents in front of tiny mirrors while the wind blew chaotically. We hadn’t showered in over a week but they felt confident and crushed 14ers for breakfast.
Appearance is just form of creative expression. Appearance does not equal ability and the sooner we can instill that in our kids, the better.
Lead by Example
Ten years later when I staffed that very trip, I was delighted to see the same mix of awkward adolescents finding their way. On this trip I reiterated the importance of finding what makes you feel strong and alive, and then doing that. Also, pack-in, pack-out (no boa feathers left behind).
Encourage Creativity and Exploration
Be you, on and off the trail. If you want to raise confident kids on the trail, you need to get on the trail yourself. If you need a fresh mani/pedi to climb mountains, then shine on kid.
It’s our job to show kids all the ways they shine outside, we can do that by finding our groove and shining bright.
Don’t Push Too Hard
When my girls came along, I could tell early on both of them were VERY feminine. They wanted all the accessories, all the time.
We decided that for every inside activity (pottery), they must pick one outside activity (hiking). Balance is key. That said, they must get outside everyday.
We’ve had several busted jewel encrusted crowns but my princess got outside. There aren’t boy and girl activities, let them guide based on what interests them and let go.
Shine on, Sister
I let them wear whatever they want (loosely within reason). If my girl wants to wear a sequined shimmery leotard on a bike ride, that’s fine but I don’t want to hear about it.
I might suggest bike shorts but it’s just a suggestion. Take it or leave it, Kid!
Let them wear all the costumes, crazy outfits and jewels they want.
That means we’ve had some wardrobe fails and it’s all okay. It’s a learning experience.
Mom pro-tip: Carry a just in case backpack to carry out accessories as needed.
Glam the Gear
I’m not afraid to glam something up upon request. My eldest needs a new bike. She sees all the “girly” bikes in Target and wants all the glitter, unicorn, rainbow chaos.
She’ll get a significantly higher quality bike that will last three times as long and improve her confidence and skills as a rider, but I’ll have to bling it out first. That means things like painting the frame, swapping out colors, adding decals, baskets, bells, ect.
Letting them glam their gear gives them a sense of pride and ownership.
Check out all our TMM Bike Reviews, quality bikes matter.
The days of “pinking and shrinking” gear are over. Women are creating excellent gear they designed and tested. Empowering our girls to find and adjust gear that works for them teaches them to pay attention to the process and figure out their own needs.
Essentially build it and they will come. Making the great outdoors accessible means giving it a little sparkle, sometimes with a bedazzle gun and princess songs blasting in the background and dedicating that effort to raising healthy, strong humans who are confident both on and off the trail regardless of how they choose to present themselves in the world.
Integrate Enchanted Play
When we’re hiking, we look for gnomes, fairies, magical water features and unicorns. Elsa is pretty much always to blame when the cold wind blows. My littlest is convinced she can both ski and board, of course she can.
If you have an child that is anxious about going outside, ask questions. Go slow and be patient. My youngest had this ratty gray tutu she wore 24/7. That tutu made her feel like a million dollars, and when ski class was overwhelming and scary, that busted up tutu was there for her every time.
Trouble stepping back and letting go? We got you covered. Team member, Valerie wrote a great article on Preserving Wildhood.
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