5 Organizations Encouraging Kids To Spend Time Outdoors

Spending time in the fresh air is a great way to relax, exercise, and learn more about the world around us. Unfortunately, children in the modern era don't always have opportunities to have fulfilling experiences in the great outdoors. The five organizations listed here help kids connect with nature at a young age, in places like parks, gardens, and even their own schools. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Groups Providing Children With Outdoor Activities

Name Mission
Outdoors Alliance for Kids Advocate for equitable and readily available opportunities for children, youth, and families to connect with the outdoors
Oswegoland Park District Acquire, develop, and maintain natural areas, parks, and leisure time facilities for area residents
Green Schoolyards America Inspire and enable communities to enrich their school grounds and use them to improve children’s well-being, learning, and play while contributing to the ecological health and resilience of their cities
Boulder Valley ICO Provide safe and enjoyable outdoor experiences for persons who would not otherwise have them
American Horticultural Society Share with all Americans the critical role of plants, gardens, and green spaces in creating healthy, livable communities and a sustainable planet

Benefits Of Spending Time Outdoors

  • Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D
  • In the winter, leaving the house can lessen the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Hiking is a great way to stay physically active
  • Walking in the fresh air can help with mental health
  • It's a great opportunity to learn about local plant and animal species
  • Going outside may be good for children's vision

Why Does Nature Make You Feel Better?

Tips For Starting Your Own Garden

  • Make sure you have all the tools you need
  • Keep everything organized so nothing gets lost
  • Use a stool to stay comfortable while you work
  • Or avoid crouching down altogether by having a raised garden
  • Light the garden so that you can enjoy it at night as well
  • Remember to mark your plants so you know what you're growing
  • If you're having trouble with pests, put up a fence
  • Prune your plants regularly
  • If you don't have a good environment outside, try growing an indoor garden

Getting Hooked On Nature

In Depth

Time spent in nature provides a wealth of benefits for children's health and happiness. But in a world where socializing, recreation, and even education are increasingly mediated through digital devices, many parents struggle to get their kids interested in the outdoors. Presented here, in no particular order, are five groups which offer ways to spark young people's enthusiasm for the natural world.

Leading off at #1 is the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, a diverse national partnership of organizations which share the goal of connecting children, youth, and families with the natural world around them. They collaborate on projects like the Every Kid Outdoors program, which provides fourth graders across the country with free passes to America's national parks. Other initiatives, like their nationwide essay contest, encourage young people to reflect on the value of developing a relationship with nature.

OAK engages in advocacy efforts aimed at increasing children's opportunities to experience nature, including successful legislative efforts to defend their parks access program. Their Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook offers tools for activists and decision makers, and they partner with federal agencies on relevant initiatives, such as assisting with the creation of the Let's Move Outside component of First Lady Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign. Through their OAK Awards, they recognize members and public servants for significant contributions to their mission. The organization welcomes support from allies and donors.

The organization welcomes support from allies and donors.

Following up at #2 is the Oswegoland Park District. This agency oversees the acquisition, development, and maintenance of natural areas and recreational facilities serving several communities in northern Illinois. They provide residents with spaces to gather for fun and education, such as playgrounds, sports fields, and community gardens. Numerous trails offer opportunities for exploration and exercise, and the Little White School Museum preserves a glimpse into the region's history. Many of the organization's programs provide recreation and education for children, like their youth sports teams or their summer day camp.

Along with providing programming for community members, the Oswegoland Park District operates nature conservation efforts, including controlled prairie burns for ecological management, and maintenance of protected wetlands. They also organize all-ages events bringing residents together outdoors, such as the annual PrairieFest celebration, the Saw Wee Kee Spring Trail Run, or the Brew at the Bridge family-friendly "craft beer" festival. Those interested can support the Oswegoland Park Foundation by making a donation or assisting as volunteers.

Next on the list, at #3, is Green Schoolyards America, which aims to bring green space into school grounds, by updating existing outdoor areas to incorporate plants and nature. They conduct research demonstrating the benefits for health, happiness, and academic achievement when children spend time in touch with living systems. They produce activity guides for educators who want to incorporate outdoor time into their students' learning experience, and advocate for public policy in support of their Living School Grounds model.

They conduct research demonstrating the benefits for health, happiness, and academic achievement when children spend time in touch with living systems.

In addition to helping make the case for bringing nature into the learning environment, Green Schoolyards America works directly with public agencies and school districts, helping to develop regional initiatives that put their approach into practice. The group's Principals' Institute provides education and guidance to administrators, assisting them in developing natural areas within the facilities they oversee. Through conferences, informational resources, and a freely available lecture series, they also work to educate the public about their mission. Readers wishing to offer support can donate online.

Entry #4 is Boulder Valley ICO, a volunteer-operated initiative of the Sierra Club, providing outdoor recreation opportunities for disadvantaged Colorado youth. Aiming to ensure that young people are not prevented by economic hardships from experiencing nature, they provide free activities such as wilderness backpacking excursions, fishing trips, and camping expeditions in national parks. Participants get the chance to learn outdoor skills like fly-tying and snow cave construction, and to encounter the natural world while making connections with peers.

Boulder Valley ICO's outings include many opportunities for children to learn about conservation; notable examples include their habitat restoration project on Big Thompson River, or their service learning trip to a wolf sanctuary. Their program provides education for assistant trip leaders as well, providing instruction in topics like wilderness first aid. Supporters with a passion for the outdoors can apply to help the organization as volunteers, and anyone interested can contribute with a donation.

Supporters with a passion for the outdoors can apply to help the organization as volunteers, and anyone interested can contribute with a donation.

We'll close with #5, the American Horticultural Society. Since its founding in 1922, this organization has worked to encourage interest and cultivate expertise in gardening. They offer numerous programs to educate young people about the art of nurturing plants, including one of the first ever children's gardens in North America at their headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. They also provide many resources for adults, including publications sharing knowledge and techniques, travel study opportunities, and awards celebrating great achievements in horticulture.

One of the signature initiatives AHS organizes to promote a love of gardening among young people is the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium, an annual event uniting educators, designers, and other interested professionals, to exchange knowledge about designing learning programs centered around plant cultivation. This gathering features the Growing Good Kids award for excellent children's books about gardening, nature, and the environment. The organization also shares free lesson and activity resources for teachers. Those interested in supporting AHS can donate, volunteer, or sign up as members.