The Secret to Raising Outdoor Kids

These days you hear a lot about kids spending too much time in front of screens, and not enough time outside. While it’s true that people of all ages sometimes find it hard to put down their gadgets, at Maine Huts & Trails we’re happy to report that the kids we see around here are more likely to be playing with sticks than IPhones. This isn’t an accident. These kids are part of active outdoor families- those that make adventure a priority, and are creating a micro-culture of environmentalism, athleticism, and confidence that passes down through generations. Here’s how they do it:

They’re weatherproof:

Here in New England, there are typically no more than 10 ‘perfect’ weather weekends per year. Does that stop us from getting out there? No way. Raining out? Grab the Gortex and have towels ready. Hot and humid? Perfect day for a swim, or a hose party on the lawn. Fifteen below? Layer up and get moving- you’ll be sweating in no time. Active families see dynamic weather conditions as an opportunity, and learn to have fun in variable conditions… not a bad life lesson to teach.

They love (and use) their gear:

A lot of people have camping equipment*. Some people even use it. Instead of packing away all your outdoor toys, keep them ready, and let the whole family in on the fun. Not to suggest you should be trekking out into the woods every weekend (although good for you if you do!), but let your eight-year old set up a tent on the lawn, or cook dinner on your camp stove, and show your kids how to use it. Incorporating your outdoor gear into your regular routine creates kids who are confident being outside, and handy with gear. That makes your next big trip easier for everyone.  

They plan adventures large and small:

Outdoor adventures don’t always have to be epic. There just aren’t enough days in a week to fit in a multi-day trek on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in shape with shorter trips. Try to fit in at least a day hike/bike/or ski every week, and just plain old backyard fun every day. But the bigger trips? They take a little more strategy. Aim for at least four big adventures every year; one per season, and plan them well in advance so they don’t get put off entirely.


Kids are natural adventurers, and given the opportunity, will stay that way for life. Active families are fun families, and since we only get one shot at childhood, it might as well be spent outside as much as possible. 

*At Maine Huts & Trails, we realize not every family has the resources to experience outdoor recreation. As a non-profit, we make it a priority to do everything we can to expose kids from all backgrounds to nature, and proudly partner with other organizations who share our mission to get kids outside. Teens to Trails, Maine Winter Sports Center, and Northern Forest Canoe Trail all help to create affordable and creative outdoor learning experiences for kids. Thanks to generous business sponsors and funding from charitable foundations, hundreds of kids have experienced Maine’s backcountry that wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise.

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​This article was originally posted on August 5th, 2015.