No doubt most of you have heard of AMC's No Child Left Inside Initiative in which the club is trying to promote the importance of outdoor activity for young people. Not only is there an epidemic of obesity among our young housebound generation, but also an explosion of other diseases from living in our little sterilized bubbles. While this effort is well on its way nationally, it is just beginning in Rhode Island, thanks to Chris Shafer, Debbie Mitchell , Tom Eagan and others. The Narragansett Chapter is actively looking for families to join our Family Outing Committee and I thought I'd offer some suggestions for activities you and your family can enjoy – outside.
As a parent and AMC member, I know it is not as easy as it sounds to get them outside. I offer this local perspective. These experiences and photos are biased toward my children, so I want to write another article (Part II) drawing from your experiences and photos. Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for Getting Children Outdoors
The Importance of Packaging: Cereal manufacturers know how important it is to package whole grains to appeal to children. Same goes for the trips. "Hey, kids, lets shut off the T.V. and get our hiking stuff on and spend a day in the woods!" may work for some kids, but not mine. Instead try, "Let's go down to South Kingstown. We can check out a trail at Trustom Pond and then hang out at the beach." Even just a couple of hours outside enjoying nature can be fun. If you also provide a "treat or reward" after the trip, i.e.; ice cream, that too will entice your children to spend time outdoors.
Be realistic about Pacing: Do you want to set the local hiking record for 4 year olds to climb Mount Tom or do you want them to enjoy the hike? Usually you have to choose. Kids don't have the patience for a 4 hour hike or bike ride , without stopping to collect rocks or jump in the puddles or pet the dogs they see along the way ....so chill out and enjoy the quiet time with your kids. Spending time outside is about enjoying both nature and quality family time, not about bagging peaks.
Multi-Use Areas: Hike, Bike, Kayak
Lincoln Woods- Lincoln: This is the complete package, easy to get to from greater Providence. They rent kayaks and canoes on the quiet lake. Traffic on the road throughout the park is light and , half the roads are reserved for bikers and hikers. The terrain is rolling so there are more fun downhills than the average bike path. After a hike or bike ride there is a ranch outside the main entrance on Twin River Road that offers pony rides, or for more adventurous (7 and older) one hour trail rides on horseback. There is a fresh water beach, but it is often noisy and crowded in summer.
Goddard Park - East Greenwich: You can bike the paved roads or hike the wooded trails along the bluff overlooking East Greenwich Cove. Trails running south from the Carousel extend 3+ miles if you want to travel that far (shorter trails are available), while loop trails north of the Carousel are about 2 miles long and there is easy access to public rest rooms, paved roads and a snack shop during the summer. Plentiful parking is available near the beach so you can also enjoy a walk on the beach or a swim during the summer. Goddard Park is also a great place for a picnic and horse back riding is available just up the road.
Blackstone River and Bikeway and Cumberland-Central Falls: There are many ways to see this area. The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council runs guided boats tours of the river from the Cumberland/Central Falls Line. After (or instead of) this, you can see this quiet river by canoe or kayak (rentals available along the river on Mendon Road), or you can bike along the river via the bike path (which also begins in Cumberland at the old Lonsdale Drive-in near the Central Falls line and continues about 10 miles into Woonsocket). The southern section, near Central Falls, includes a boardwalk over a swamp and a ride through the meadow. Go near sunset and you can see deer, rabbits and bats in the meadow at old Drive-In.
Trustom Pond-South Kingstown: Trails are flat and short with great views of the Ocean. You can also hang out at the beach.
Watson Farm- Jamestown: After visiting geese, goats, ducks, etc. at the historic farm, you can hike through the meadow to the waterfront, which affords a great opportunity to collect sea shells.
Browning Mills Pond - Arcadia - a loop trail about a mile and a half long circles the pond. Kids can fish in the pond which is stocked with trout during the summer or you can canoe or kayak and have a picnic.
Cross Country Sking/Hiking
Pulaski Park- Gloucester: This is my favorite activity . Not just because it's fun , but because there are so few outdoor activities for the winter. You can cross country ski all season for less than the cost of 1 trip to a New Hampshire ski area. I would recommend the Cedar Swamp Trail, marked in red. It is a manageable distance (1.5 miles) plus it has a fun downhill near the start. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate or cider, as well as orange vests. If kids are brand new to skiing, I would recommend just a flat local playground to get the hang of it before going to Pulaski.
anywhere- R.I. I love the bike paths, and I ride them with my
daughter all the time. Although you don't have to worry about
cars, you will run into dogs, rollerbladers, bikers and walkers.
all darting about , so you need to stay alert. I will often play a
game where we will explore a new road (at least for my daughter)
to a surprise destination- a fruit stand, a country store or a
playground. It teaches your kids don't just drive to a bike path
and bike, but that biking is a transportation choice and can be a
great way to explore new areas.
Webmaster note on page column scaling.