How You Can Get Kids Outdoors
Tips from AMC staff and volunteers
By Kristen Laine
AMC Outdoors, May 2010
Families sometimes need extra help to get children outside. AMC staff and volunteers offer the following tips for overcoming common barriers, such as fears of the unknown and lack of time and money, whether you're planning a chapter family trip or inviting the family down the street for a hike.
Return to basics. Worcester Chapter family trips chair Barbara Dyer says that sometimes the most simple trips—sledding in the winter, for example—draw the biggest groups.
Schedule in advance. Eric Stones, Connecticut Chapter family trips chair, creates an entire schedule of family hikes at the beginning of the year.
Explore "nearby nature." Children "don't need to take a 5-hour trip to the White Mountains," says AMC Chapter Relations Manager Faith Salter. Parks, natural areas, even small patches of green space provide them the benefits of nature.
Cast a wide net. Stones posts his family trips on the Connecticut NCLI coalition website. For a Trails Day hike, Stones drew a group of more than 60, mainly from the NCLI website. NH trip leader Dave Passios makes a point of including children from area Boys & Girls Clubs in chapter trips.
Make it accessible and affordable. Dyer has learned that cost can be a big barrier for many families in planning outdoor trips. She schedules hut trips off-season to reduce the expense for participating families and also schedules family outings in facilities like the Noble View Outdoor Center in western Massachusetts that many find affordable.
Educate. AMC staff have worked with experts to create presentations, such as "Staying Safe and Found" and "Hiking as a Family". Trip leaders may also need to address the larger cultural question of what you "get" when you go for a walk in the woods. "Sometimes parents need to be told that kids will naturally adapt to being outside" even without a structured environment, says Salter.
Become a role model. Through AMC, Dyer says, we "have an opportunity to give to families that will come back a hundredfold in the future."