An Abundance of Cheer

As we slowly clean up the wrapping paper, read instruction manuals, and wipe cookie crumbs from our faces, The Risky Family would love to take a few minutes to thank you for being such loyal readers and for always inspiring us to play more and fear less.

We’d also like to take some time to reflect on what our New Year’s resolutions might be. And by resolutions, I don’t mean the guilt-inducing kind. There will be no discussion of “Eat more kale,” “Get through P90X,” or “Organize the junk drawer” here. Not that those aren’t fine resolutions, and if you need more kale in your life, then by all means, kale it up. No, what we mean is, what do you resolve to do in 2014 to make your life more playful and to let joy, not fear, be your guide?

So many resolutions center around what you feel you need more or less of in your life. I read this the other day on Seth Godin’s blog and I immediately knew it would become my touchstone for determining whether or not we would put our energy into something in the coming year. It is his reaction to the notion that we must operate with an abundance of caution:

Perhaps we could instead opt for an abundance of joy or an abundance of artistic risk or an abundance of connection. Those are far more productive (and fun).

Also: The things we have the most abundance of caution about are rarely the things that are actual risks. They merely feel like risks.

In this spirit, I’d love if you would share your thoughts on what you resolve to do this year to bring an abundance of joy, art, connection, play, risk, love, laughter, curiosity (you get the idea) into your family’s life in 2014. I’ll do the same, and shortly after the New Year rolls in I’ll share mine as well.

I think if you play your cards right, this may just be your most playful year yet. And to that we say, “Cheers!”

In keeping with the idea that we need more play and less work as the year comes to an end, I will be taking a short holiday break from blogging. In lieu of new posts, I will take the opportunity to repost a few of the most popular stories from The Risky Kids. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and I look forward to sharing even more adventures with you in 2014!

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You’re Never Too Old To Take Risks

Chicago skyline

It’s all well and good to encourage kids to take risks. It expands their horizons, builds confidence, and hones life skills they’ll need as adults. But just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you don’t need to do the same.

I was reminded of this as I planned an overnight trip to Chicago earlier this week. We live about 3 1/2 hours away from the city, and I’ve visited Chicago many times over the years. I had a writing assignment that required a visit to the Field Museum, so I thought it would be fun to take Elena with me – just a quick little girls’ getaway. It occurred to me that in all my visits to the city, I’d never actually gone on my own. I’d either taken a bus in for the day or gone with my parents or my husband.

I was definitely apprehensive about the trip, for several reasons:

  • In order to save money, I planned on using Priceline or Hotel Tonight to snag a last-minute deal. This meant I wouldn’t know exactly where we were staying until the day of the trip.
  • I’d never driven in Chicago.  We’d be arriving in the late afternoon, and I was worried about traffic.  I was also worried about getting lost.
  • I didn’t know where to park.  I knew I didn’t want to spend the money to valet the car at the hotel, but I didn’t want to drive around aimlessly trying to find a safe and reasonable place to park.
  • I needed to use public transportation to get us from the hotel to the museum and back.  It looked confusing and I was worried about taking the wrong bus.

So what’s an adult to do when they’re feeling both excited by and anxious about doing something they’ve never done before?  Well, I did exactly what I would tell my kids to do: assess the situation, prepare yourself as best you can, ask questions, and give it a try!

Elena and I ended up having a wonderful time.  Traffic was fine.  I found a great hotel in the perfect location at a good price.  I took a few minutes before we hit the road to research parking options online, and found a cool service call SpotHero.  I was able to plug in the address of the hotel and reserve a spot in a parking garage just down the block from our hotel for a fraction of the price it would’ve cost to valet park.  I plugged the address of the garage in my GPS and found it without any trouble.  I asked the concierge at the hotel about taking the bus, and he directed me to the city’s public transportation website.  It had a trip planner where you could indicate where you wanted to go and what time you wanted to get there, and it gave you detailed directions on which bus to take, what the fare would be, and how to get to the bus stop.

Each step of the way, Elena was watching.  I was very open about being nervous about some details of the trip.  I wanted her to see that everyone gets anxious sometimes, and that new situations (even exciting ones) can make you fearful, no matter how old you are.  I wanted her to see that in life we always have a choice – to step out of our comfort zones and end up doing some really cool things, or to pass opportunities by because you think you’re not capable of handling the tricky parts.

As I navigated the busy roads of downtown Chicago to get to our hotel, I had to turn the radio off.  I told ElenaI had to concentrate because it was stressing me out.  Once we were parked and on our way to the hotel she said, “How did you even do that?  I would be freaking out!”  And I told her that I just paid attention and trusted myself.

If she can go through life doing the same, she’ll be able to go anywhere and do anything she sets her mind to.  And I’d risk just about anything to set her up for that kind of success.

Chicago, just me and my girl.

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Kids and Cellphones: Our Story

Tween with cellphone

Photo credit: Mike Wolanin

We bit the bullet and got a cell phone for Elena at the end of the school year (she’s 11, by the way). It’s a touchy topic, and one that involves much debate. And like so many parenting dilemmas we face, there is no right answer, just the answer that works for your family.

For all the worrying and gnashing of the teeth over kids and their dependence on tech, I have to say that knowing my kid is carrying around a phone and can be reached (or reach me) whenever needed is somewhat liberating. While some might view it as just another way we helicopter parent in today’s world, I see it as a useful tool to let go sooner for those parents who have a hard time doing so. I am more likely to say “yes” to letting her go somewhere on her own or with friends when I have the security of knowing I can reach her easily.

I was interviewed by a local paper on the topic along with a few other parents, and thought you might enjoy reading how we came to the decision that we were ready to equip our tween with a cellphone. It’s actually a funny story, and Elena’s ingenuity earned her a phone a few months earlier than we probably would’ve purchased one for her otherwise. You can see photos of us here and read the entire article here:

[gview file=”http://theriskykids.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Daily_Journal_10-19-2013_B.pdf” save=”1″]

What do you say? What age would you consider a cell phone for your kids? And does it feel like one more step towards helicopter parenting or does it make you feel more empowered to give your kids independence?

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50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do): Master the Perfect Somersault

Task: Master the perfect somersault before they’re banned at your school.

 

Requires:

  • Lawn or soft play area

Possible Hazards:

  • Getting clonked on the head or back
  • Bumps and bruises

How It All Went Down:

When was the last time you did a cartwheel or a somersault?  Unless your kids are in some kind of tumbling class, chances are it’s been awhile for them … and probably years for you!  Of course, somersaults are not dangerous, but like many of the things we did during recess as kids, they’re increasingly not allowed at school for fear of injury and litigous parents.  We had a beautiful afternoon with nary a safety patrol in sight,  so we went for the gold!

Believe it or not, there are instructions for The Perfect Somersault in Gever Tulley’s book.  They are as follows:

  • Prepare.  Find an area that is free of sticks and rocks.
  • Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other.
  • Start with the roll.  Lean down, tuck your chin, and imagine curling up into a ball as you fall forward.  Place your hands on the ground in front of you as you encounter the ground.
  • Roll over.  Keep leaning forward, curling up as you go, and keep your back curved as you contact the ground on the wide part of your back between your shoulder blades.  If any part of your head touches the ground, you haven’t curled up enough.  If the ground hits you in the back with a thump, then you probably didn’t lean down far enough.
  • Follow through.  Try to maintain your momentum and roll up onto your feet.

Poor Elena … I think having directions to do something she already knows how to do made her overthink it!  It also didn’t help that she’d eaten 6 slices of pizza just before we attempted our somersaults.  Plain old somersaults were too easy for Eli (so he said), so he moved on to cartwheels … with debatable success (light pole 1, Eli 0).  Mike had to show off, doing the combo cartwheel into a not-so-graceful somersault.  I do think mine was the best, no?

The best part was that we were all outside as a family, goofing off.  And of course nothing draws in the neighbors like seeing you act like circus performers in the front yard!  So drop what you’re doing and master the perfect somersault today!

You can read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

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How a Community Saved My Summer

Hanging out in the front yard

Now that summer is past us and the kids have settled into school, I feel like I can finally reflect on our summer. Over and over again this summer, I kept having the feeling that this summer was different. For one, it flew by. It felt like it was June and then I looked up and it was back-to-school. I also kept feeling an overwhelming sense of joy. Our family seemed happy and at peace, and most days it felt as if we were living in the moment as best we could.

Now maybe every summer is like that for you, but it hasn’t been for me. Many times in the past I’ve started summer with giddiness and enthusiasm, only to feel the need to wave the white flag by the middle of July.

I realize that the age of my kids definitely plays into the equation. Every summer is better than the last, as they get older and more independent. They are at a fantastic age, where they don’t need help going to the bathroom or fixing a sandwich, but yet they still enjoy being around their parents. Still, something was at work beyond the kids’ age, making this a wonderful summer. The difference, I think? Our new community.

This was our first summer in this neighborhood and it had a tremendous impact on how enjoyable it was. The kids played outside every day, something I couldn’t necessarily say in our old neighborhood. They strengthened friendships, set new boundaries, and had the time and space to play away from constant adult supervision. I also played outside almost every day. I strengthened friendships as well, and reaped the rewards of not having to constantly supervise my children’s play. It was a beautiful thing, and we were all sad to see summer come to an end.

Of course, not everyone can replicate our neighborhood, or move to a more playful neighborhood on a whim. But I do believe there are things everyone can do to foster community where they live, and in turn make their community a more playful one. And by doing so, we all help each other through the joys and difficulties of parenting. Here are a few steps anyone can take to build community wherever you live.

Spend time in the front yard.

 

When we first looked at this house, we marveled at the backyard and the basement. The backyard is large, wooded, and has an excellent playset. The basement is filled with toys, crafts, and a gaming system. Now that we’re here, guess where the kids spend most of their time? The front yard. I realized, as they wisely did, that the front yard is where it’s at.

Modern households spend a small fortune on making the backyard a pleasant place to be. We build decks, firepits, and massive playsets. This is all well and good, and we do enjoy the backyard as a family. But when you’re sitting back there, no one can see you. And if no one can see you, countless opportunities to interact with neighbors are missed. In the past, houses were built with front porches and stoops, close to the street. In this way, you could see and be seen, and everyone knew their neighbors. Now, too often, we pull into our garages and shut the doors behind us, never to be seen again until the next time we leave.

Make an effort to spend time in your front yard. If you live in an apartment, condo, or an urban area, spend time in front of your building or at the nearest park. You might be the only one out there for a while, but sometimes all a person needs is to see someone else outside to coax them outdoors as well.

Reason #467 why my neighborhood is awesome.

Get to know your neighbors.

 

Now that you’re outside where everyone can see you, strike up a conversation. Kids are great icebreakers for us and give us something in common. Even if the parents aren’t out, it’s great to get to know the kids in the neighborhood. Surprise neighbors with a small treat or flowers, and leave your contact information. Consider organizing a pitch-in or an ice cream social so that everyone can meet and socialize. And if all of that is too overwhelming, just smile and wave. Just recognizing your neighbors is a step in the right direction!

Water balloons

Invest in things kids can do in groups.

 

I say “invest” lightly, because you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get items that will draw kids over to your home. The biggest hits this summer were cheap – water balloons and chalk. The big kids loved having water balloon fights (frankly, so did the adults!), and the younger ones could spend hours drawing with chalk. We put the slackline out front for awhile and no one could resist trying it out. Put out a tub of playground balls. Have frisbees around. Pool noodles make great “weapons” for jousting without the risk of injury. I also loved keeping a supply of cheap popsicles in our outdoor freezer (Yes, the horrible kind that are nothing but sugar and food coloring – sue me). Nothing brings kids together like sugar! It doesn’t matter what you choose, the point is to make it clear that you are a kid-friendly household and that you’re approachable.

How do you encourage community where you live? Has your community been receptive to your efforts?

 

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Lessons From Getting Lost: Tweens, Tech, and Outdoor Play

Penny Skateboard

If you have any questions or need inspiration as to how to get your young children outdoors, you needn’t look any further than Pinterest or the multitude of blogs available to us to find something that suits you.  I love that kind of stuff and use it frequently.  What nobody ever told me, though, was that it would get harder as the kids got older.

With younger children it seems the main things that keep them inside are the weather and motivation on the part of the parents.  There’s not a lot that will compete for their attention, and just about any excuse to spend some time with Mom or Dad will get them out the door.

My dilemma?  How to get my tween outside more.  For her, nature must compete with television, texts, and the lure of her iPod.  And even when those things are removed from the picture, there are other things she’d rather do than go outside.  Playgrounds are getting too boring.  She’s not into sports.  And all those adorable activities I’ve pinned?  Too babyish.  And so I find myself in new territory here … how do you encourage outdoor play to tweens and teens who feel they’re getting too old to simply “play?”

What does interest her these days is combining outside time with the feeling of being independent – riding her bike to a friend’s house or walking to Taco Bell.  For the last month or so, she’s been asking for a Penny Skateboard.  I’ll be honest, I had my doubts.  They aren’t cheap, and I was worried she wouldn’t actually use it.  She doesn’t really ride her bike just for the sake of riding her bike, and I didn’t think the skateboard would be any different. But she persisted and saved her money, and so I told her I would pay for half.  It arrived a few days ago and you would’ve thought Christmas came early.

Suddenly all she wants to do is be outside, riding her skateboard.  She rides it around the neighborhood, but want she really wants to do is ride it places … by herself.  The other day she wanted to ride it to the local ice cream shop, which is about a mile and a half away.

There’s a straightforward way to get there, and then there are a few shortcuts through neighborhoods that you can take.  She decided to take a shortcut on the way home, and instead found herself lost.

I got a text from her, saying she was lost and giving me the nearest address.

I sent her a text back, with a screenshot of Google Maps, showing her where she was in relationship to our home.

She texted me back, saying she figured it out and knew where she was now.

Suddenly it hit me that instead of viewing these tween years and all of its distractions as a doomed cliff to the end of outdoor play, it can be a fun challenge.  It can also be a way to mesh technology, the outdoors and the need for independence in some really creative ways that will serve her well throughout life.

Had she not been connected to her various social networks, such as Instagram, she would’ve never known about the Penny skateboard.  It’s certainly not anything I would’ve ever thought of myself.  Even if I did know about it, based on what I thought I knew about my daughter, I wouldn’t have purchased it for her.

Had she not had access to technology that allowed her to text, she would’ve gotten lost and not been able to reach me so quickly.  What had started out as a positive experience could’ve quickly turned into something that left her feeling scared and panicked.  She might be wary of venturing out again.  It could’ve squelched that spirit of adventure that she has, leaving her afraid to try new paths or wander just for the sake of it.

Had she not been given baby steps from an early age to venture out on her own, she would’ve never been able to attempt a trip to the ice cream shop by herself.  This didn’t happen overnight.  It started small … first our front yard, then a neighbor’s house, then down the street, then the playground a few blocks over.  Baby step after baby step of proving she’s responsible and proving to myself that we can slowly let go.  Had she not been shown that she can do these kinds of things on her own, this experience would’ve been a monumental disaster.

It really inspired me to keep pushing forward as she heads into her teen years.  It forced me to rethink how social networking and technology will influence her desires, and how these “distractions” (which are a fact of life now), can be used to encourage playfulness and stimulate growth just as easily as they can inhibit it.  I just have to think outside the box a little more than I did when she was a preschooler.  It made me resolve to pay more attention and ask more questions about what drives her, and what she enjoys doing, and then to encourage those passions that take her offline.

Quite simply, it made me realize that we’re not headed off a cliff … we’re springboarding onto something bigger and more exciting.

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The Idle Parent: We Fill the House with Music & Merriment

This is the seventeenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

We Fill the House with Music and Merriment

iPad Music Station for Families

I grew up in a very quiet house – you could literally hear a pin drop in my childhood home. My mother didn’t like noise, so we never had music playing or the TV on for background noise. That all changed when I got my own house.

I asked Roger for a CD player for the kitchen. Thank God  he’s technologically savvy. He put together this set up with YouTube and Pandora so we can play any song we want. And do we! We crank the tunes. I’ve found it makes cooking and cleaning better. It also drowns out crying and tantrums – the more you complain, the louder the volume. It works great around here. Music makes everything better, I’ve found. We dance, we sing, we fight over who gets to pick the songs … but everyone smiles.

Making meals fun with kids

We’ve got Music covered, but how about Merriment? I don’t know about your house, but at my house mealtimes can be a real drag, the very opposite of merry. No one sits still, milk gets spilled and suddenly everyone’s a food critic. I have a few tips to combat this problem.

1. Read Aloud

This makes eating hard, but the kids will sit still if I read them a story. A few of our favorites have been Charlotte’s Web, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and How to Eat Fried Worms.

2. Play Games

We have Rock, Paper, Scissors Dice, tops, a hangman book and Legos on the table. It gets messy and rowdy but I’ve found the kids complain less about the food if their mind is focused on something else.

3. Draw

We’ve been known to cover the kitchen table in butcher paper and give out crayons so that the kids can draw while they eat. It’s disgusting after about 2 meals and has been known to cause paper cuts, but the kids love it.

Settlers of Catan

I bought this coffee table off the internet. It really belongs in a fraternity house, but every now and then I go function over form. It has four chairs that fit under it and it’s perfect for board games. We try to leave a game or puzzle out on the coffee table at all times. Our current favorite is The Settlers of CatanGoodbye Candyland and Chutes and Ladders! Catan is fun for the entire family and won’t drive you to drink.

One of the points the Idle Parent author makes is to warn those of us with small kids not to be perfectionists when it comes to your home interior.  Save your sanity and money. He suggests you “give up on creating the ideal home and instead embrace the idle home.”

If you fill you house with fun things to do, kids will flock to it. Sometimes it gets loud and messy. We’ve skateboarded in the kitchen, we’ve spent hours throwing Webkins at each other and we’ve even ridden tricycles down the hallway. My walls have handprints on them and my floors are scratched but I consider these battle-scars. The day will come when these kids leave.  I will hire a contractor and erase the damage – but never the memories.

 

 

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Kids in the Kitchen: When You’re Ready But They’re Not Willing

Kids and cooking

I am facing a dilemma here in The Risky Kids kitchen: my kids are not adept in the kitchen.

My husband and I both have strong memories of cooking for ourselves at a fairly young age. By the time we in middle school we were both latch key kids. I made a lot of Bisquick muffins and quesadillas. He made box after box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

My kids, however, live in a different world. I am always home after school and we eat dinners that I prepare myself almost every evening. I love to cook, they have little interest, and they almost always spend the hours between school and dinner occupied with play and/or homework. They’ve shown fleeting interest (mostly when the possibility exists that there will be batter to lick), but for the most part they prefer to do other things.  The end result is that they’re almost never in the kitchen with me. And as happy as we all are with the dynamic, I know that it needs to change.

You might think all this fuss we make about risky play boils down to fun (for them) and laziness (for us). That is partly true – allowing kids to play and explore freely is fun and does make life a little easier for us. When we’re not hovering, we’re able to pursue our own interests. However, there is a method to this madness, and that’s the end goal. We want our kids to grow up to be independent, thoughtful, and confident adults. Sometimes they learn the intangibles, like confidence and independence, through free play. And sometimes it takes shared activities to learn skills that we all should master by the time we leave home. Cooking would be one such skill.

There isn’t any question in my mind that even as preschoolers, children are capable of learning and executing basic kitchen skills. Pretend Soup and Salad People , Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks for children, are excellent resources for teaching young children basic knife and cooking skills. Snack prep was part of daily life in my kids’ Montessori classroom, and Montessori catalogs sell real tools for preschooler to use – including knives, vegetable peelers, and graters. I’m more than game to teach my kids how to use these tools and set them free. (Although for some reason my husband has an irrational fear of letting the kids use our Pampered Chef cheese slicer. He’s convinced they’ll slice a finger off along with the cheddar.)

Tweens in the kitchen

I know that kids Elena’s age (11) are more than capable of being self-sufficient in the kitchen. Elena is slowly coming around, but she lacks the confidence and intuition that makes all the difference in cooking success vs. failure. She is a slave to the timer, and doesn’t trust herself to know when something is done. She loves Bagel Bites, and (especially in the summer) makes them for herself once or twice a week. She’s been doing this for a year now, and it still never fails that I’ll get this question at least once during the process:

“Mom! Are my Bagel Bites done?”

We go through a list of questions you can ask yourself: How long have they been in the oven? Are they bubbling? Are they turning golden brown? If you quickly touch the tops, are they warm or hot? We do this EVERY time.

I know issues like these, as well as getting both of them comfortable with basic kitchen skills (knife use, stove and oven safety, following a recipe, etc.), will simply take time, experience and repetition. The dilemma I have is that my kids just aren’t interested in learning any of this stuff! Most parents struggle with the fear – my kid will cut his finger off or my daughter will burn down the house. Nope, not me. I’m in the kitchen offering knives and flames, but no one’s coming.

So what do I do? Do I wait for the interest to eventually show up, and capitalize on it then? Or do I pull them away from play and make dinner prep a family activity?

I’d love to know how you’ve incorporated your kids into the kitchen. Did you let them cook and use kitchen tools from an early age? Are you scared to let them chop and simmer? Did someone teach you these skills from an early age, or did you figure it out on your own? Or are you just as lost in the kitchen as my kids are?

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Risky Places We Love: City Museum – St. Louis

City Museum, St. Louis: suspended airplane

Is it wrong to plan an entire trip around one museum?  If it is, I don’t want to be right.

I can’t remember where or when I first heard about  City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, but from the first mention I knew it was a place The Risky Family had to visit.  City Museum is a one-of-a-kind place, an ever-changing tribute to the endless possibilities of urban play.

City Museum, St. Louis: praying mantis slide

City Museum was created in 1997 by sculptor and entrepreneur Bob Cassilly.  Housed in a former shoe warehouse in downtown St. Louis, the museum features floor after floor of repurposed castoffs.  Bridges, tile, vehicles, rebar, stones, ramps, sculptures, airplanes, even a ferris wheel … anything is candidate to be turned into a playground for adults and kids alike.

We spent a good part of a day there and didn’t explore half of it.  But the nooks and crannies we did explore were amazing, exhilirating, and yes, a little bit scary.

Teetering high above the St. Louis skyline on the rooftop ferris wheel …

City Museum, St. Louis: rooftop ferris wheel

Climbing at seemingly impossible angles …

City Museum, St. Louis

City Museum, St. Louis: praying mantis climber

Trying not to fall in the water …

City Museum, St. Louis: stepping stones

Exploring dark places …

City Museum, St. Louis: maze

If we lived in St. Louis we would be here ALL THE TIME.  That being said, I can see how this museum might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  At ages 6 and 11, and arriving at the museum early enough to where it wasn’t overly crowded, I felt comfortable letting the kids roam on their own a bit.  This isn’t a place where you can keep the kids in sight at all times, not unless you follow them everywhere.  And by following everywhere you are committing yourself to some very high and sometimes very small spaces!  With that in mind, I can see how coming here with younger children could be overwhelming.  (If any of you visit the museum with young ones and have some tips to share for other readers, please do so!)  For older kids, though, I think this is exactly what the creators intended – a place to play with calculated risk, plenty of opportunities for independence, and loads of fun!

City Museum, St. Louis: skate ramp

You can view more photos from our visit on my flickr page.  City Museum is located at 701 North 15th Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63103.  Please check the website for hours and admission information.

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Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience {September 21-22, 2013}

Last week I was working my other job as a cheerful salesperson at a store which sells containers for very organized people, when I came across a charming older couple who had just moved to Indiana from Kansas. The gentleman was cracking me up … while they’d come to the store for supplies for their new home, he was obviously prepared to use every opportunity to glean information about his new town from anyone he met.

Let me ask you this …” he said.

I was prepared for a question about organizing kitchen drawers or a good container for pet food, but instead he peppered me with questions about where can one get good, local milk, who’s the best vet in town, what’s my favorite pizza place? He whipped out a notebook and began furiously taking notes. We had a nice chat and I wished them well as they settled into their new home. As they began to walk away he turned around and asked one last question.

“You know, I love the outdoors – hunting, fishing, camping, hiking. What’s the best way for me to find out where I can do those things in Indiana?”

“Sir, you are IN luck!  Let me tell you about the Hoosier Outdoor Experience.”

The Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience is a free, 2-day event presented by the Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation. Held on the grounds of Ft. Harrison State Park September 21 & 22, the goal of the weekend is to expose Hoosier families to more than 50 outdoor activities. And by expose I mean hands-on, try-it-you’ll-like-it! experiences.

We attended as a family last year and had a blast. We went off-roading in a Jeep,  had a family skeet shooting competition (Elena won), tried our hand at cross-bows, mined for gold, went canoeing, fished … and those were just a few of the highlights.

Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience Crossbow Shooting 101

Much like our camping experience a few weeks ago, this is an excellent program for families who like the idea of trying some new outdoor activities but just aren’t sure where to start. Nearly every activity gives you the chance to try it in some form.  If you enjoy it, there are friendly experts just waiting to answer each and every question you might have.

The event is free, and you do not need tickets to enter, but they are kindly asking that you register to attend.  It helps them both in planning as well as evaluating the event to make it bigger and better each year.

As I told my inquisitive customer all about the upcoming Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience, his grownup eyes lit up like Christmas morning. People, if it makes a grown man that excited, imagine what it will do for your kids!  If you’re one of my Hoosier readers, don’t miss the wonderful event.  See you there!

Have you attended the Hoosier Outdoor Experience in the past?  What was your favorite activity?  What activity are you most looking forward to trying this year?

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