Feeling quite tired of playgrounds (I hear you!), Berkeley mom of two Annie Burke started taking her family and friends out to some less-traveled parks in the East Bay Regional Park District in 2009. Since then, her community Outside Kids has grown to over 100 families who go outside – really outside – to explore, run, climb, and get dirty. She works at the Bay Area Open Space Council.
I first learned about Outside Kids, as one learns about all wonderful things, through my really cool friends. Outside Kids is a resource for grownups who want to go outside with kids, beyond the slides and swingsets. They coordinate monthly family nature walks with maps that “even a five-year old can read.” Follow along on Facebook to be updated on their next adventure.
With an eye toward parents like me who aspire to muddy, tired children, but don't know where to begin, Annie and her group choose the dates, destinations, and lunch spots. They draw simple maps and give tips, so all you have to do is show up. You bring your food, water, and any gear along with a towel and some dry clothes for the return drive. No RSVP required; extra maps will be available for latecomers.
Sounds amazing, right?
There's not a lot of structure or organized activities on these monthly family nature walks because that is the point of it: to be outside and less structured. Let the little ones decide how fast we move and whether we stop to try to kiss the banana slug.
Annie's recommended book titles for parents aspiring to dirtier happier children:
- Rachel Carson's The Sense of Wonder
- Peter Brown's The Curious Garden
- Doris Burn's Andrew Henry
- Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain
[Photos used with permission from Outside Kids, all rights reserved]