For many, outdoor play was a part of childhood. Rather than sitting in front of the TV or playing with electronics, we were outside socializing with other kids at parks and playgrounds. Take a trip down memory lane — do you recall playing Freeze Tag, Red Rover, or Slug Bug? Where was your first hiking or camping adventure? What are your favorite memories with your family? For most, the fun games and experiences you remember took place outdoors — the best place for kids to enjoy nature play.
With its beautiful scenery, fresh smells, sounds, and textures, the outdoors is a kid’s playground. It's a place where they can have spontaneous play, burn calories, learn, and explore. It's an essential community place that supports a kid's developmental needs — physically, socially, creatively, and intellectually.
At Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation, we believe in providing outdoor experiences for children, which makes us natural partners for the 10 Million Kids Outdoors campaign being championed by NRPA and the National Wildlife Federation. We understand the importance of outdoor play and support the need to provide educational and nature-based experiences. It all starts with the kids.
In an effort to encourage kids to get outdoors, we held our first event promoting the 10 Million Kids Outdoors campaign in July. We offered fitness activities, dancing, and parachute play...the kids came to life. We were amazed with the response and participation we received from the community.
Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation jump-started their community into the 10 Million Kids Outdoors campaign with a fun event this past July
Our department engages children by providing over 75 nature programs throughout the year. These programs focus on interacting with nature, creating projects incorporating the outdoors, or being active while outside. Approximately 85 percent of our events are also held outdoors encouraging family participation, volunteer assistance (especially those Junior volunteers), and a healthy lifestyle. We continually promote the importance of children in nature, our green-friendly practices, and our offerings in hopes to get more children outside. It is these offerings and our passion toward the outdoors which help us to sustain our parks for generations to come. The kids are the ones that will share their memories and pass on the need for environmental stewardship to future generations.
Here are some ideas on how your agency can celebrate the great outdoors within your community.
- Offer nature-based programs: Kids are never too young to get outdoors and get dirty. Offer programs where they can dig in dirt, play with worms, and explore trails as a family.
- Ask the kids: Survey kids within your community and ask them what type of outdoor play they are seeking. After all, they are the ones in need of the outdoor benefits.
By participating in organized outdoor programs and events, kids will again begin to appreciate the outdoors. It’s not too late for these outdoor experiences to help them become inspired and educated.
What are some ways your agency engages children in nature? What other ideas can you share for ways to celebrate the great outdoors?