Where I grew up, in the suburbs of New York City, we didn’t have easy access to what everyone thinks of as America’s iconic parks—getting to Yellowstone or Yosemite required a long plane ride, and we were much more likely to run into a squirrel in our backyard than a bison or an antelope.

Bear Mountain State Park, one of my favorite local parks.  Photo by Dave Overcash.
Bear Mountain State Park, one of my favorite local parks growing up. Photo by Dave Overcash.
But whether it was by hiking at Bear Mountain State Park, having picnics by the Hudson River, or cross-country skiing in the winter, my parents never let my brother and I forget how lucky we were to live within a quick walk or drive of so many public lands.

National Kids to Parks Day is all about getting families to enjoy the parks closest to their homes—whether it’s the playground down the street or your local state park. Thanks to Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Senate passed a resolution to officially recognize May 17 as the fourth annual Kids to Parks Day.  This event, put on by the National Park Trust, is a great opportunity to connect youth across the country with the outdoors—especially at parks in their communities. Look here to find an event near you, or use NWF’s Nature Find tool to locate a park in your neighborhood.

Connecting kids and nature is more important than ever.

Children today are spending less time outdoors than ever before.  Research shows that kids are spending about half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago, and kids are spending more and more time in front of electronic screens—on average, 7 ½ hours per day.   In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents.

Luckily, the next 2 months offer a wealth of opportunities for kids and families to get outdoors, enjoy nature, and be active.  June is Great Outdoors Month, which NWF is co-chairing along with the American Hiking Society, American Recreation Coalition, The Corps Network and the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation. Among the countless events and activities that will be going on all month in all 50 states is NWF’s very own Great American Backyard Campout on Saturday, June 28th.  Since 2005, thousands of people from across the nation have come together the fourth Saturday of June to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout, an annual nationwide event that provides a fun-filled evening for all generations to get outside and connect with nature.

What’s your family’s favorite local park? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to check out NWF’s powerful online park, trail and outdoor event finder to get ideas for where you and your family can get outdoors.