Greetings from 30,000 ft – On Getting Your Kids Outside

AT Staff07 Aug, 2012

The Adventure Treks season is winding down.  I have just said goodbye to the wonderful Colorado kids and am eager to see The Utah students for their final night – then it’s on to Portland, Seattle and back to Portland.  Meanwhile Alaska 2 is saying their goodbyes.  But much is still going on! Cal Challenge is hiking the Lost Coast, the Pacific Northwest is sea kayaking and the Pacific Northwest Experience is climbing Mt. St. Helens. We have met many amazing teenagers this year.  It’s sad to see them depart.

While I was having a debriefing lunch with the instructors from our Colorado trip today, we all started reflecting on the role our parents played in getting us excited about the outdoors.  There were six of us and we all remembered car camping, backpacking and various hikes and paddles with our parents.  Outcomes were not always as hoped and we remembered not always loving the outdoor trips our parents had planned.  But our parent’s efforts stuck and are now appreciated. Today the outdoors is a big part of our lives.  Thanks Moms and Dads!

Getting kids outdoors was something parents did back then. It’s a lot harder now.  No parent is better set up than I to get my kids outdoors, but even for me it’s hard to find the time! The world has changed – While some of the blame goes to the allure of electronic devices more of it has do with the insane pace of modern life. Between overzealous kids sports programs which devour weekends, increasing academic pressure and stressed out parental work weeks (as we all do more with less), it takes careful planning to get my kids outdoors. And we frequently have to cancel other commitments to do it. But it’s worth it. My most memorable family times are the time we spend together outside. And I hope I am building a love of the outdoors and an environmental ethic in my kids.

I am not alone. All the trends show that kids aren’t getting outdoors (unless one calls a mowed playing field outdoors.)  Yet the benefits of getting our kids outside has been proven and the data points grow stronger each year.  Supposedly even just playing in dirt is good for us as recent research shows it boosts immunity and naturally releases serotonin. Research shows that outdoor activities in nature reduces stress, counters ADD, reduces the incidence of depression and may even lead to increased  intelligence. Most importantly, we all know the improvement in perspective a good day out in nature gives us and the wonderful memories, bonding and stories outdoor time spent as a family can bring.

Our Adventure Treks students will spend more time outdoors on a 20-day trip than most people spend “outdoors”  in their lives.  When they return to you a few subtle changes should be noticeable. Your child should be a little calmer, more reflective, more appreciative of small things and have gained greater perspective.  It’s great to take a break from civilization and spend time in nature. As your kids come back home, we hope you will find time throughout the year to help them get outside as much as possible.  It’s a great habit to build on.  We look forward to spending more concentrated time with them outdoors next summer.

I would like to share a quote from a Utah student. The group woke up at 5AM and hiked to a viewpoint of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. They wrote letters to themselves and had 10 minutes of silence as they watched the sunrise.  Both the silence and the spectacular sunrise had a profound effect – The students will remember that view for the rest of their lives.  As one student put it – “Sunrise at Delicate Arch or my normal day filled with electronics? – NO Brainer! – who needs electronics!”

Best, Dock


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