Outdoor Recreation for Youth and Families

Does outdoor play make kids smarter? We know that outdoor play improves kids' physical health. All that fresh air and exercise – what's not to like? The truth is, there actually may be more to like. Outdoor play is increasingly linked scientifically to stronger mental muscle. Read more in this article from the San Jose Mercury News.

Looking for activities or programs to engage youth in the outdoors? We've compiled materials from the Izaak Walton League and other reputable sources. (See these activities in action in this YouTube video of Kids Exploring the Outdoors.) Some of these activities also make great chapter or youth program fundraisers. 

Youth in the Outdoors Webinar Series
The Izaak Walton League’s three-part webinar series will help you develop a program that provides youth with positive, educational experiences with nature. 

Encourage your children to love the outdoors and they’ll love it for life – and lead a healthier lifestyle.  Join the Izaak Walton League for our program celebrating the wonders of nature. The Tiny Ikes (T'Ikes) program has been designed specially for children ages 2-5. We are piloting these classes at the League's headquarters in Maryland and at local schools. If you are interested in starting your own Tiny Ikes class, e-mail Rebecca Wadler at rwadler@iwla.org.

Activities for Every Age
The League and other conservation and community organizations have a wealth of resources to take your youth programs to the next level. Following are just a few examples, divided by age group.

Ages 5 to 8 (Grades K-3)

  • Bicycle Rodeo (PDF): Going "green" includes encouraging families to drive less often. A bicycle safety event is a great way to get the community invovled at your chapter and spread the word about your chapter's other "green" initiatives. (Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation)
  • How To: Collect and Plant Nuts (PDF): With autumn comes an abundance of acorns, walnuts, and other nuts strewn across the ground. These native seeds can be collected and put to good use. (Izaak Walton League)

Ages 9 to 11 (Grades 4-6)

  • How To: Build a Rain Garden (PDF): Stormwater runoff is a leading cause of pollution in our streams and lakes. Driveways, roads, and parking lots block water from draining into the ground. Lawns are not much better, unless they have a place where the water can go. Enter the rain garden. (Izaak Walton League)
  • Make a Solar Oven (PDF): Instructions on making a solar oven that you can take on a camping trip! (U.S. Department of Energy)

Chapter Activities for the Whole Family
The League's Chapter Manual offers a wealth of program ideas, with two-page activity starters to help you get a program off the ground, plus details on resources needed and chapters that have run similar successful programs.

  • Family Day Outings (PDF): Organize and host an all-day event that provides opportunities for families to spend time together while learning a new outdoor activity. This is a great way for chapter members to meet each other. These events also provide an excellent low-key way to attract new members.
  • Hunter Education (PDF): Chapters can provide a public service by offering hunter education and safety course several times a year to the community and chapter members. Hunter education courses typically attract non-members (for example, hunting families with younger novice hunters) and provide a great tool for member recruitment. Hunting courses also reinforce the connection between hunting and wildlife management and conservation.
  • National Hunting and Fishing Day (PDF): These events highlight the tremendous contribution hunting and fishing make to our economy and fish and wildlife management. Such events publicly promote the positive contribution that hunters and anglers make to conservation and the League’s mission.
  • Scouting (PDF): Scouting offers an array of training programs that include outdoor experiences and values. Your chapter will benefit by engaging well-educated youth who are eager to complete conservation projects. By sponsoring and mentoring a Scout group, your chapter will provide a community service and receive community recognition.
  • Youth Conservation Camp/Outdoor Classroom (PDF): A youth camp will allow children to spend time with Izaak Walton League members, naturalists, and other natural resource experts learning about conservation problems and solutions.
  • Youth Fishing Event (PDF): Youth fishing events are excellent opportunities for the public to learn about your chapter’s conservation activities.
  • Youth Hunting Events (PDF): These events can attract potential members, introduce children to the joy of outdoor recreation, teach participants safe and responsible hunting techniques, and educate participants about managing wildlife populations and the role hunters play in promoting conservation practices.
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Izaak Walton League of America
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