A Resolution Good for the Whole Family: 5 Tips for Spending More Time Outdoors

I have to start by saying that New Year’s resolutions aren’t really my thing. All too often my resolutions hit the dust bin after the first or second week of the new year because, like all goals, they require planning and commitment.

This past year, however, I’m so glad my family stuck with our resolution to spend more time outdoors. Over the past year we’ve created amazing memories, plus I’ve seen curiosity and creativity flourish in our kids as they’ve spent time in nature. In order to stick with this resolution I created easy ways for us to build outdoor time in our lives and tapped into a number of resources the National Wildlife Federation offers.

If you’re thinking that 2012 is the year to get your family outdoors, here are a few tips to get you started:

We hiked Pilot Mountain State Park the day after Thanksgiving while visiting family in North Carolina. We hiked around the monolith you see in the background. (Photo by Kristy Myers)

First Day Hikes

Why not kick off the New Year with a family hike? For the first time ever all 50 state park systems are participating in First Day Hikes, special programming for New Year’s Day encouraged to get families out to their local state park. Even if you’ve hiked a particular trail other times of the year, winter offers a completely different perspective — a calm quiet, coupled with views typically blocked by leaves on the trees. Our family enjoys checking out local state parks when we travel to see family for the holidays. So for Thanksgiving we hit Pilot Mountain State Park in North Carolina while visiting my in-laws, and we plan to hit a Delaware State Park tomorrow during our visit to my Mom’s. Here’s the events on tap tomorrow at Delaware State Parks. To find a First Day Hike near you, search here.

Walk Through the Neighborhood

The easiest way to spend more time outdoors is to just walk out the door and explore your home turf. Now if your kids are anything like mine you may hear a chorus of complaints sometimes when you’re trying to get out of the door. My solution:  create a scavenger hunt. On the days when they’re resistant — like Christmas weekend when my in-laws were here — I have them come up with a theme and a hunt for us to do. Last weekend’s was a holiday decoration scavenger hunt where we looked out for things like Santa statues or a wreath with a red bow.

Our kids camped in the family room before making the jump to camping in the backyard. (Photo by Kristy Myers)

Camp in Your Yard

Have fond memories of camping when you were a kid? Why not bring that fun to your own family. Start simple by camping right in your own backyard. If it’s too cold to venture out right now, you can set up a pup tent in your family room or basement for a fun indoor campout. Or, if you don’t have a tent, tap into your kids’ imagination by building a blanket fort to campout in. Then, when the weather is nice you’ll be ready for our Great American Backyard Campout on June 23.

Get Your Green Hour

Okay back when I was a kid it was just called kicking your kids out the door to spend time playing. Today we call it Green Hour, but it’s basically the same thing. It’s finding time for kids to have unstructured play time outdoors — time for kids to be kids. The National Wildlife Federation offers activities and resources through our greenhour.org website.


Is your family into the latest electronic gadgets and gizmos? Then geocaching might be for you because it’s a great way to pair screen time with a fun outdoor adventure. Geocaching is a combination of old-fashioned treasure hunting, while using GPS technology, and spending time outdoors. With the help of a handheld GPS device or smartphone, people can hunt for geocaches hidden in public areas all over the world. To find out more, check out this information on Ranger Rick’s Geocache Trails.