It’s no secret that in the UK we’re pretty rubbish at getting kids outside. And I had an interesting chat with an interesting bloke yesterday that make me realise I’d love to work with other outdoorsy parents to change that – who’s with me?
Connecting outdoorsy parents
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some kind of Jerry Maguire mission statement (“Who’s coming with me?”), but I got an out-of-the-blue call from a fellow dad yesterday who’d stumbled across my blog and wanted to chat through an idea. He’s been chewing over starting a group/organisation/movement of some kind that encourages more parents to meet up and get outdoors with their kids – and the more I’ve thought about it the more I love the idea of meeting more outdoorsy parents.
As a dad of two young boys this chap wants to make sure they spend loads of time outside as a family, gaining new skills and enjoying new experiences, but hasn’t necessarily got the confidence to lead activities like canoeing, raft-building, mountaineering, fishing, or camping. My first thought was ‘isn’t that what the Scouts or Girlguides are there for?’ but the more he spoke the more I realised that was nonsense.
Sharing outdoor experiences with your kids
This guy was talking about actually doing all these activities with his kids, not just dropping them off at a group led by someone else or packing them off on a PGL-style activity holiday. He wants to get his hands dirty and share these experiences with his boys, rather than handing them over to someone else to have all the fun on his behalf. And I totally get it – it’s up to us as parents to take charge of the situation.
I’ve always been quite outdoorsy, probably because my dad was mega outdoorsy and as a result I spent loads of time as a kid doing stuff like walking up hills, cycling along canals, and camping in cool places. Those experiences shaped my passion for nature and the outdoors, and as a result I know my little boy Sonny will be exposed to a lot of the same stuff because I’d love for him to enjoy it as much as I do.
Resisting the lure of the indoors
Although I can take Sonny cycling, walking, camping, or canoeing any time I want, what I’ve so far struggled to do is convince other outdoorsy parents and dads to come with me. The lure of soft play centres (I love them too), indoor toddler groups, afternoons round at a mate’s house, and the even easier option of just staying at home watching TV always seem to take priority. One because they’re all still great ways to spend time with your kids, but also because they’re much easier options than planning and executing an outdoor adventure.
But what if there was a group or organisation out there that catered specifically for outdoorsy parents wanting to get their kids out of their comfort zones and into exciting outdoor activities?
Are any groups or organisations already doing it?
I spent a year working as an instructor at an outdoor camp in the USA when I was a teenager and we hosted some huge groups of Adventure Guides. This is a YMCA-led initiative that was founded in 1926 to ‘support the father’s vital family role as teacher, counselor and friend to his son’. It’s extremely American in its nature – lots of dressing up in native-American costumes and chanting around campfires – but the concept is brilliant. Basically just large groups of parents and kids getting away together for a weekend of camping, fishing, hiking and lots of other outdoor activities. This wonderful program of parent-child experiences now involves a quarter of a million children and adults annually.
In general, the Americans seem much better at this than we are here in the UK. Another organisation I love is Hike It Baby – a nonprofit organisation with the sole mission of connecting families to one another and getting them outside. They focus on children from birth to school age, with the lovely motto of ‘raising a generation to love the outdoors / change your world one hike at a time’. Hike It Baby was founded in the USA and is now spreading into other countries – UK included – but its visibility and reach is still small over here.
Who’s coming with me?
I would love to find something like this in the UK that connects outdoorsy parents and families. If anyone knows of anything similar out there that I’ve missed then please let me know, or if anyone is interested in getting together with a few likeminded parents and trying to start something ups then please get in touch!
I’m not much an ideas person, and I’m certainly not any form of businessman, but what I do know is that there must be thousands of outdoorsy parents out there who’d love to spend more time in nature with their kids. Whether that’s climbing Ben Nevis or kayaking down white-water rapids, paddling in their local river or climbing a few trees, the possibilities are absolutely endless. And if a few of us linked up and tried to kick something off, we could inspire an entire generation of outdoor lovers.
So, who’s coming with me?