All kids deserve opportunities to enjoy quality time outdoors.
The Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook
Regular, positive experiences outdoors are critical for children’s healthy development. But today’s kids average less than 10 minutes playing and learning outside per day — and more than 40 hours per week in front of a screen. This trend has serious negative implications for our kids, our communities, and our planet. Today, whether a child has access to a safe place to play and learn outdoors, and receive all the benefits that come from that, is highly dependent on their zip code, race, and family income.
Lawmakers across the U.S. are passionate not only about their states’ outdoor economies and natural resources, but about ensuring all children benefit from time spent in nature. They know those meaningful experiences improve children’s quality of life, health, and social well-being, and in turn their communities become stronger and more sustainable. Smart policies can bring the benefits of the outdoors to more children, with a substantial return on investment.
The Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook highlights successful bipartisan policy initiatives and provides resources to support new statewide efforts to build healthy communities by increasing kids’ regular, positive experiences outside through environmental education and youth engagement in the outdoors.
The Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook:
- Demonstrates what’s working and what’s possible by highlighting existing and promising policy solutions for increasing youth engagement in the outdoors.
- Shares the knowledge and experience of environmental education and outdoor engagement champions to inspire new, innovative ideas.
- Connects cross sector leaders working on statewide policy initiatives.
Help us improve the Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook by sending feedback and ideas to RPaulekas@merid.org.
2021 State Policy Wins
Thanks to the tireless work of state legislators, advocates, and outdoor champions, the 2021 legislative session resulted in policy successes in many states to get more kids outsides more often. Please see some highlights below.
Georgia - Senate Outdoor Learning Commission
This bipartisan resolution, sponsored by Sen. Sheikh Rahman, creates a committee to look at issues and needs associated with outdoor learning and issue recommendations. The committee is also encouraged to work with state experts such as local universities and state departments.
Illinois - Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights
The Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Sonya Harper, affirms the right of all children to access and play in the outdoors.
Indiana - Year of the Trails
Indiana designated 2021 as the "Year of the Trails," sponsored by Rep. Carey Hamilton, to emphasize the importance of Indiana's outdoor spaces.
New Hampshire - Environmental education provisions
The New Hampshire legislature passed an omnibus bill in 2021 that included provisions for environmental education for students under the leadership of Sen. David Watters.
New Mexico - Outdoor classrooms task force
New Mexico's task force will promote the use of outdoor classrooms in New Mexico schools and declare an outdoor learning day in 2021.
Washington - No Child Left Inside
The Washington legislature renewed and expanded funding for its youth outdoor grant program in 2021.
Colorado - Outdoor Equity Grant Program
This bill establishes an outdoor equity grant program to increase access and opportunity for underserved families to access the outdoors, governed through the division of parks and wildlife.
Maine - Outdoor Recreation Opportunities for Students
This bill expands access to outdoor learning trips for children in schools.
Oregon - Outdoor Crime Bill
Under this new law, people convicted of a bias crime committed on publicly owned recreation land will be barred from state lands.
Explore the Playbook
Why Youth Outdoors
Research shows that playing and learning outdoors is critical for children’s health, well-being and academic success, yet millions of children lack access to safe outdoor spaces and meaningful, regular outdoor experiences. Learn more about the benefits of spending regular time in nature.
The Youth Outdoor Policy Framework outlines guiding principles for getting more kids outside.
Resources and example policies to help make the case and develop policies that increase equitable access to the outdoors.