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A NATURE RESOLUTION: Don’t Wait, Put the Outdoors on Your 2017 Calendar Today

About the Author

Jennifer Bristol is the Coordinator for Texas Children in Nature (TCiN), which consists of 375 organizations committed to connecting children and families to nature. Before joining TCiN she was the program director for Camp Fire, where she developed award-winning, environmental science and outdoor skills curriculum for afterschool programs and family nature clubs. She is a former natural resource manager and state park ranger, business owner and marketing director. She has served on multiple national and local boards and is an avid volunteer. While at Texas State University she earned a BA in History.

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Photo of Mission Tejas State Park, from the Texas State Park Guide

As part of your New Years Resolution to be healthier in 2017, rather than spending a fortune on a gym membership and hours walking on a noisy treadmill, why not escape into nature?

You’ll be rejuvenated, your children will develop new skills, and nature will help your family build stronger bonds. Granted, finding time on everyone’s busy schedules can be difficult. So make a commitment to put that time on the calendar early in the year and stick with it all year. You can start with parks, nature centers, and outdoor organizations. They’re making nature even more accessible to everyone.

Big adventures, like camping, are great to add to the calendar. Some State Park camping spots may fill up early during the busy season, so book those trips early. Consider a variety of camping areas, such as Army Corps of Engineer ParksLCRANational Parks, County Parks and private campgrounds. Each offers unique experiences and a variety of nature.

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• To find a state park near you, go to  America’s State Parks. Did you know that there are 10,234 state park areas in the U.S. comprising over 18 million acres? For Texas residents, the organization I work for, Texas Children in Nature, has made it easy to find nature with their website: NatureRocksTexas.

• The National Park Foundation’s website FindYourPark lists 546 National Parks, Scenic Trails, National Monuments, Historic Sites, and National Forests. 

Of course, parks aren’t the only places for outdoor family adventures. Get to know the nearby nature in your own neighborhoods. Feel uncomfortable doing it by yourself? Team up with other families.

• Consider joining a Nature Club or starting one yourself by downloading a free toolkit (available in multiple languages) from the Children & Nature Network.

Worried about gear? You don’t need a lot of gear to explore in nature. A good pair or walking shoes is about all you need in most cases, and in the right conditions. Think beyond walking trails for your journey in nature. You can go mountain biking, horseback riding, or kayaking and canoeing.

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• For more fun things to do outdoors with your family and friends, Richard Louv’s new book, Vitamin N, has over 500 ideas for kids and adults. And Texas Children in Nature has created the Outdoor Activity of the Month to encourage outdoor exploration each month.

With all of these resources available, consider setting a challenge for you and your family to visit a new park every week or month. You can start the year off right with a First Day Hike near you.

Remember: When children are allowed to play outdoors they’re learning valuable skills. They’re engaging their creativity and problem solving when they create their own games outdoors. They’re strengthening their bodies as they move from low to high energy activities at their own pace. Social skills such as cooperation and communication are sharpened in natural play spaces. They’re building their self-confidence and preparing for grander explorations.

And you’ll be getting younger. See you outdoors in 2017!

Additional Reading and Resources
ERRAND TIME AS NATURE TIME: Finding a Way to Give Your Kids a Daily Dose of Vitamin N
Announcing the Vitamin N Challenge Winners
Marghanita’s Vitamin N Challenge Video – How to get Intimate with Nature in the Cit
THE FAMILY NATURE BUCKET LIST: Here’s an Easy Way to Get a Regular Dose of Nature
VITAMIN N AT HOME: Backyard Fort Building
10 Reasons Children, Adults & Communities Need Vitamin N
5 Ways to Get Kids into Nature — Outside Magazine
10 Vitamin N Strategies for Families, Organizations and Communities
Vitamin N Book Excerpt: San Diego Magazine
Children at Nature Play

C&NN Resources

Nature Clubs for Families Took Kit provides worksheets, templates, examples, and more resources for getting your club up and running. Available in several languages.
Nature Clubs Directory connects you for support with clubs and leaders around the world.
C&NN’s Family Nature Club Leaders Facebook Group provides ongoing support and inspiration.

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Books and Guides for Inspiration
Here’s a list of 50 books to help keep your family outdoors all year long, including “VITAMIN N,” which offers 500 ways that families and communities can connect to the natural world — and fight nature-deficit disorder.
Texas Children in Nature Outdoor Activity of the Month
First Day Hike

 

Photo credits: Texas Children in Nature

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