By: Mara Addision

It’s tough to compete with YouTube for my daughter’s attention. With the stab of a finger, she has at her disposal all the entertainment in the world. She can watch funny cat videos, learn the latest Minecraft tricks, even visit Disney World. What do I have to offer that compares with Disney World?

How about pumpkin decorating? Candy cane searches? Gingerbread house building? Scavenger hunts? All delivered through the panoramic lens of the great outdoors. #nofilterneeded

I became a volunteer Venture Outdoors Trip Leader to help lead and develop outings that my daughter and other school-aged kids would find interesting and fitting to their varying activity levels. Most of these family outings have a fun hook. If you come outside and hike, then you get to make tissue paper flowers, terrariums, or painted pumpkins. If you go on the water and kayak, then you get to eat pancakes, pierogis, or pretzels. If you walk through the park, you can learn to use a GPS unit, find candy hanging in the trees, locate toys and trinkets in cache boxes, or gather materials needed to build a gingerbread house.

When I was a kid, long before the advent of streaming videos and 24-hour online entertainment, and the only video games available were Pong and Jai Alai on my brother’s tiny black and white television set, I’d beat boredom by hopping on my bike and riding around my city block. I’ve heard tales of kids today doing this as well, throwing on their 12 pounds of safety gear and running outside to play.

But I don’t live in a neighborhood with kids my daughter’s age. Outside options are limited due to ticks and traffic. Like her mom, my kid has limited balance, so skates are non-starters. And, of course: YouTube, Minecraft, and crazy cats. And my daughter is not alone in this situation.

This is why groups such as Venture Outdoors are so important. The organization’s mission statement boils down to three simple words: Everyone belongs outdoors. The program staff works months in advance to create weather, age, location, and skill-appropriate outing schedules designed to challenge as they delight, providing adventures new and familiar, and allowing everyone the opportunity to be active within their personal levels of ability.

What does this mean to your children?

They are given the opportunity to learn new skills, break out of their normal comfort zones, and feel proud of their accomplishments. So what if your kids can’t dribble a ball or kick a soccer goal? They can follow woodland trail blazes, identify trees and flowers, discern bird calls, and work a GPS unit. They can feel strong and competent and absolutely amazing.