A family hiking a mossy trail.
Opportunities for getting your kids outdoors with activities such as hiking are nearly endless in Washington.

Link up the little ones with life outdoors

Resources for connecting your kids with nature this year

spring marches on toward the end of the school year, we wanted to share some ideas for filling your children’s summer days with fun in the sun in Washington’s great outdoors.

From the backyard to the backcountry, from streams to sea, there are nearly endless opportunities in our state to introduce your kids to life outdoors or cultivate an already growing interest.

Time spent connecting with nature can leave an indelible mark on a child’s upbringing and maybe even introduce parents to a new pastime. And who knows — the adventure you share with them this year could grow into a lifelong interest or even a career field (though maybe leave that whole “job” part out at the beginning).

Here are some of our top suggestions for helping your kids get connected with nature:

1. Hiking

Hiking with kids is a great way to get outdoors, get some exercise, and connect with nature. Washington has many family friendly trails that boast a variety of natural features sure to interest even the most reluctant outdoor explorer.

Get started: The Washington Trails Association has excellent resources to find kid-friendly hikes near you, tips and tricks for hiking with kids, trip reports, and even volunteer opportunities.

2. Camping

A family prepares to make S’mores around a campfire.
A family prepares to make S’mores around a campfire.
Kids can pick up new skills in a family camping trip.

Camping with kids helps them disconnect from screen time and develop a sense of adventure. Camping offers children a chance to play, explore, make memories, and even learn new thing— think building a fire or star-gazing. Washington has many places to camp ranging from primitive wilderness experiences to more developed sites that often offer amenities such as bathrooms or playgrounds.

Get started: Washington State Parks offers developed campgrounds that can be reserved through their online reservation system. Check the campground’s park page for a list of amenities available at each site.

3. Fishing

Three children fish in a lake from the back of a boat.
Three children fish in a lake from the back of a boat.
Three children ranging in age from 2 to 6 try their hands at fishing at North Lake in Federal Way where they would go on to catch 10 fish. (Dana Bennett)

Fishing can be an exciting experience for kids of any age. Teaching your children to fish is not only fun but helps them develop survival skills, learn patience, and offers an opportunity to learn about conservation and where their food comes from. As an added bonus, kids 14 and under do not need a license to fish in Washington state.

Get started: Find places to fish by county or species on the WDFW Places to go fishing page. There you will also find details about shoreline and boat access, fish-stocking information, and how-to resources.

4. Photography

A young man takes photos in a meadow.
A young man takes photos in a meadow.
Creativity and the outdoors can come together through photography.

Outdoor photography can be a fun way to incorporate art into the outdoors. With a vast variety of plants, wildlife, and landscapes, Washington has many unique opportunities to inspire creativity in nature.

Get started: There are many places your kids can find interesting subjects to photograph in nature, including your own backyard! Check the WDFW places to go webpage for more ideas on places to inspire their creativity.

5. Observe, identify nature and contribute to science

A boy points to snow-capped peaks in the distance.
A boy points to snow-capped peaks in the distance.
Getting to know the natural world can also become a contribution to scientific work.

By simply observing and identifying aspects of nature, anyone of any age can boost their knowledge of the outdoors, contribute to science, and better connect with the natural world.

Get started: You and your children can aid WDFW’s scientific work by using our community wildlife observation tool. The online wildlife reporting tool asks for information that is linked to the management of a species, and the details go right to the biologists who need them. Additionally, apps such as Seek allow kids to earn badges and participate in challenges by taking pictures and identifying different wildlife, plants, and fungi. Older children and adults can use apps like iNaturalist to record their observations with a community of scientists and naturalists. The crowdsourced data contributes to biodiversity science around the world.

6. Garden

A child fills small terra cotta pots while adults tend to strawberry plants.
A child fills small terra cotta pots while adults tend to strawberry plants.
Cultivating your child’s green thumb comes with many benefits, not to mention putting healthy food on the table.

Gardening is a great outdoor family activity packed with loads of benefits. Gardening teaches responsibility, patience, and enhances fine motor skills. Watching a plant grow as a result of their care also helps children foster an appreciation for environmental stewardship.

Get started: From flowers to fruits and vegetables, there are a wide variety of plants to choose from in starting a garden. Do an online search or visit a local plant nursery to find out what to grow and when for the best results in your area. Even those with limited space for a garden can grow plants such as peppers, beans, and tomatoes in containers on porches or balconies.

7. Raking for steamer clams

A WDFW employee and three children dig for steamer clams at Oakland Bay Oyster Reserves.
A WDFW employee and three children dig for steamer clams at Oakland Bay Oyster Reserves.
Get your hands dirty and harvest some delicious bivalves this year with a steamer clam dig. (WDFW)

Washington is home to many clam species that are easy to find and harvest throughout the year. One of the easiest clams to harvest are steamer clams, which only require a small garden rake to find and harvest.

Get started: Visit the WDFW public clam, mussel, and oyster beaches page to find site-specific harvest seasons, daily limits and harvest rules, and shellfish identification charts. On the day of your dig, always remember to check the state Department of Health’s shellfish safety interactive map to make sure the clams are safe to harvest and eat. You can also check this guide for processing directions and recipe ideas!

8. Wild Washington lessons

To provide support for learners in Washington, the WDFW has a new environmental education program called Wild Washington. Parents and educators can explore the variety of wildlife-themed curriculum for elementary, middle school, and high school students.

Wild Washington lessons incorporate disciplines ranging from math and science to art and literature. Lessons align with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s state and national environmental and sustainability learning standards.

Get started: The Wild Washington Program also hosts online events periodically throughout the year. Check WDFW’s event calendar or Facebook page for more details. Visit WDFW’s YouTube channel to watch recorded Wild Washington LIVE! events and visit www.wdfw.wa.gov/wild-wa for more information.

For more ideas on activities and places that will help connect your kids with nature, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/ and https://www.mywdfw.com/.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.