Thursday, September 30, 2010

Be Outside campaign in Idaho has great tips for getting your kids outdoors

Drew's "Over the Hedge" project in our backyard

Quinn's first fish at age 4

Quinn and Dad on the Salmon River

Quinn and Dad on the summit of Council Mountain


Drew loves camping "in the middle of no where"

Hi all,

I'm sure everyone knew that this past week was "Take a Child Outside Week," which was observed Sept. 24-30 this year. Just kidding, but actually, it's true, and the Indian Summer weather we've been having in Idaho has been utterly fantastic. So how could you find a better time to get your kids outdoors? Try starting with this weekend.

As an outdoorsy Dad, even I struggle sometimes with my kids to join me on outdoor pursuits. But because I like to play outdoors a lot, my kids often don't have a choice. I tell them we're going rafting, camping, hiking or mountain biking or whatever, and they might try to put up a fuss, but when they say, "Do I have to?" They know the answer is going to be "Yep."

A lot of other parents may struggle with knowing how to get their kids outdoors or having enough ideas to excite them about doing something outdoors. Keep reading for some great ideas.
Five years ago, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, raised our collective consciousness about the brewing concern that our children were turning into indoor zombies, focusing too much time on video games, computers and TV. His concerns were spot-on, and his book inspired a national movement.

A number of great people in Idaho rose to the challenge and formed the Idaho Children-in-Nature "Be Outside" project, which led to a beautiful web site created by Drake Cooper agency. The Be Outside web site, hosted by the Idaho Travel and Tourism Bureau at, has 101 tips for parents and kids to consider. That's a great place to start looking for fresh ideas to get your kids outside.

The web site also lists events throughout the state, organized by region, and it has hot links to the Idaho Children in Nature Facebook page and YouTube channel. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, one of the partners in the Be Outside project, has produced a ton of inspiring videos about great kid activities -- frog pond, fishing, gardening, composting, story-telling, snow science and many more. Click on the YouTube channel to view the videos. You'll get lots of cool ideas that your kids will enjoy.

The main point is to give your kids some time to enjoy the outdoors without necessarily having to do any one particular thing. It's called unstructured time. Just let them roam around the edge of a river or in a mountain meadow, and they'll use their natural curiosity to find things to do. It might just be playing in the mud, throwing rocks, skipping rocks, looking a tree leaves, watching the clouds roll by or whatever. Get your kids outdoors, and the rest will follow quite naturally.

In Idaho, we are blessed with a multitude of outdoor resources right outside the back door, whether it's an urban pathway where you can go biking, a river where you can go fishing or skipping rocks, or a park where they can play on the playground. It's really easy for us to go play outdoors because we have great amenities close to home. Be sure to take advantage of that and your kids will never forget.

My son Quinn, 12, had a really busy summer playing on the North Boise Little League all-star baseball team that went to the Northwest regional championships in California. It totally consumed his whole summer. The day after he got home from that tournament, junior high football practice started. He never had any down time. So the following weekend, I took Quinn and my other boy, Drew, camping and fishing in the Boise National Forest.

On the first night, we pulled into a campsite next to the North Fork of the Boise River, got a fire going, and kicked back in our lawn chairs. And Quinn said, "Dad, I'm really glad you got us out of town. It's nice to have some time to chill." The next day, he took a nap for 2 hours in the afternoon. He never does that at home.

And I like the fact that there is no wifi or cell coverage in the BNF. The kids had time to just be kids.

Here are a couple of other things that you might want to do with your kids this fall:

1. Visit the Idaho Bird Observatory on the top of Lucky Peak. Raptor experts catch and band birds of prey as they are migrating south, and if you're lucky, they'll let you release the birds. It's a super-cool experience, and it's a rare chance to see birds of prey up close and personal.

2. Take your kids fishing at one of the ponds in the Treasure Valley that Idaho Fish & Game stocks on a regular basis. These are called Family Fishing Waters.

Have fun!

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