Outdoor Gifts for Kids and Families

November 27, 2012

While walking in Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge on Thanksgiving, my 3-year-old spotted some birds that neither my husband nor I could identify. To my delight, she responded to our ignorance by asking for a bird book for Christmas.

I spent much of Black Friday walking in another local conservation area, rather than starting my holiday shopping. Even so, my daughter’s request got me thinking about gifts that encourage a love of nature and active time outdoors.

Here are a few ideas.

Experiences
It’s challenging to wrap, but top of my list for any gift-giving occasion is more time with my family and friends, preferably outdoors. Here are some ways to make this gift more tangible:

  • Pair a book about the constellations with some hot chocolate and set a date to go star-gazing with your child.
  • Do something similar with binoculars and a bird book, or a tree book or bug book, or whatever else inspires you and your child.
  • Book a trip to a campground, lodge, or other destination where you know your family will enjoy hiking, skiing, swimming, or other outdoor activities.

Clothes and Gear
In a wonderful article called “Gift Ideas for Outdoor Families,” AMC staff and authors offer their suggestions, many of which involve clothes and gear.

These gifts make sense, since a good raincoat or warm snowpants and parka can make a big difference in how kids experience the outdoors. Maybe this is the time for you to invest in such items—or to ask relatives to chip in for something you’d like your child to have (or that you would like yourself).

Consider options like these:

  • Raincoats and umbrellas
  • Snow gear (including hats, mittens, and gloves)
  • Sunglasses and sun hats
  • Wool socks
  • Flashlights and/or headlamps
  • Sleds and snow tubes
  • Kids’ snowshoes or skis
  • Bicycles and helmets
  • Water bottles or hydration systems
  • Child carriers

Tools
Another way to encourage children to explore is to give them a few key tools that help them examine their surroundings, like these:

  • Binoculars
  • Hand lens/magnifying glass (and for older enthusiasts, perhaps a microscope)
  • Butterfly net
  • Bug box
  • Shovels and buckets
  • Sketch pad and watercolors
  • Field guides (books or apps)

Whatever material gifts you might give, though, I think the most important one is your time and enthusiasm. So go ahead and schedule some days outdoors with your family and friends, or just grab an hour the next time you can. Even without a bird book, a place like Great Meadows always makes me thankful.

Learn More
For more ideas, check out the Go Explore Nature blog post on “Gift Ideas for Backyard Nature Fun,” which includes links to 15 more nature-themed gift lists.

Photo by Jerry and Marcy Monkman.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an Appalachian Mountain Club blog, written by Heather Stephenson.

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AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.