On Mother’s Day And Beyond, Moms Can Lead The Way In Getting Kids Outdoors

guest blog by
Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign; and
Jackie Ostfeld, Director of the Sierra Club Nearby Nature Initiative and Co-Founding Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

SIERRA CLUB: Mary Anne Hitt with daughter Hazel; Jackie Ostfeld with son Dylan.

As moms, we can’t wait for this Sunday’s holiday, filled with adorable homemade craft projects, meals with family, and lots of hugs. For our families, spending time outdoors is another way of sharing some love – love of our families and of our natural world. It turns out we’re not alone. According to a new report, moms play a pivotal role in inspiring a passion for the outdoors in the next generation.

We love taking our kids (Mary Anne’s daughter Hazel is 7 and Jackie’s son Dylan is almost 2) into the woods and to our local waterways. We all love camping, hiking, gardening, and biking together, and it’s truly magical to see the outdoors through a child’s eyes. They notice the little things, they appreciate what many adults overlook, and we long to keep that fire burning within them as they grow older, both because it will bring them great joy, and because we hope making a connection to nature now will inspire them to protect it as they grow up.

Unfortunately, today’s children are growing up indoors, with fewer opportunities to explore nature than we had in our childhood. In fact, today’s kids spend 50 percent less time outdoors than our generation did as children – isn’t that shocking? Some of the barriers to spending time outdoors are lack of public parks that are safe and close to home, insufficient public transportation connected to natural areas, and school budget cuts which have led to reductions in field trips.

The recent REI report on women in the outdoors highlights some statistics that trouble us:

  • 63 percent of women said they could not think of an outdoor female role model
  • 6 in 10 women say that men’s interests in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s

What role can moms play in changing those statistics? We play a very big part, as it turns out. Here’s the good news from the same REI report: “Mothers are the number one mentor that women cite when asked about who inspires them to get outdoors.” In fact, both of our moms played a key role in inspiring our love for the outdoors, and they are our role models as we do the same for our kids.

SIERRA CLUB: Jackie Ostfeld and son Dylan at the Grand Canyon.

Mother’s Day is an opportunity for moms to continue to inspire and teach the love of the great outdoors to our kids. We know how great it is to be outside – the REI report shows that as well too:

More than 85 percent of all women surveyed believe the outdoors positively affects mental health, physical health, happiness and overall well-being, and 70 percent reported that being outdoors is liberating.

Moms can make amazing strides in getting their kids and families outdoors – it doesn’t have to involve planning a major trip to a National Park (although that’s fun, too!). Encouraging your kids to appreciate the outdoors can start close to home like in a local public park or a community garden. The first steps can be easy, like backyard campouts, exploring the wildlife in the neighborhood – from bugs to birds to flowers – and taking your kids and their friends and moms on hikes in a local park.

This Mother’s Day, get outdoors with your family. Plan some spring and summer hikes or park visits. Moms can and will continue to make a tremendous difference in ensuring kids can enjoy, explore and protect the outdoors. And moms can encourage other moms to help ensure all kids have opportunities to get outdoors, too! Pledge to help ensure all kids have opportunities to experience nature.

Share your story of getting outdoors with your family! Post a photo (new or old) on social media with your mom or your children with #MomsOutdoors or complete the following phrase “My favorite memory with my #momsoutdoors is: ___”

Happy Mother’s Day!