Youth and Families
Does outdoor play make kids smarter? We know that outdoor play improves kids' physical health. All that fresh air and exercise – what's not to like? The truth is, there actually may be more to like. Outdoor play is increasingly linked scientifically to stronger mental muscle. Read more in this article from the San Jose Mercury News.
Youth in the Outdoors
The Izaak Walton League’s three-part webinar series will help you develop a program that provides youth with positive, educational experiences with nature.
Encourage your children to love the outdoors and they’ll love it for life – and lead a healthier lifestyle. Join the Izaak Walton League for our program celebrating the wonders of nature. This program has been designed specially for children ages 2-5. Children must be accompanied by an adult for each program – it’s an experience you’ll treasure together.
View this approximately 2-minute YouTube video of Kids Exploring the Outdoors.
Our newest youth-focused materials help children understand the natural world around them and what they can do to protect our precious natural resources. For more information, visit our Young Ikes page, where you can also download worksheets or order activity books.
Activities for Every Age
Looking for activities or programs to engage youth in the outdoors? We've compiled activity materials from the Izaak Walton League and other reputable sources. Some of these activities also make great chapter or youth program fundraisers.
Ages 5 to 8 (Grades K-3)
- Bicycle Rodeo (PDF): Going "green" includes encouraging families to drive less often. A bicycle safety event is a great way to get the community invovled at your chapter and spread the word about your chapter's other "green" initiatives. (Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation)
- Chessie: A Chesapeake Bay Story (PDF): In this coloring book, Chessie the Bay Monster encourages kids to protect the Bay from pollution to protect the fish and wildlife that live there. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
- How To: Build a Bee House (PDF): Honey bees may be getting all the press, but they’re not the only pollinators in town. The United States is home to almost 4,000 native bee species (honey bees are non-natives brought here from Europe). One way you can help protect pollinators is to build a home for them. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Build a Bird Feeder with Recycled Materials (PDF): Bird feeders – and bird watching – are a great way to involve youth in wildlife conservation. Using an old milk carton or juice bottle for construction offers additional eco-benefits. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Collect and Plant Nuts (PDF): With autumn comes an abundance of acorns, walnuts, and other nuts strewn across the ground. These native seeds can be collected and put to good use. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Recycle a Christmas Tree (PDF): The fresh smell of pine today will be replaced by dry, dead branches and lots of pine needles in January. But there are plenty of other uses for that tree. Plus, tips on recycling other holiday decorations.
- Planet Janitor© Coloring Book (PDF): This English/Spanish coloring book gives very basic messages about trash, recycling, alternative energy, and the importance of trees. (Florida Solar Energy Center)
- Thirstin's Wacky Water Adventure (PDF): A short activity and coloring book about sources of drinking water and steps kids can take to save water. (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Water Word Scramble (PDF): A one-page word scramble about water resources and how to save water. (Environmental Protection Agency)
Ages 9 to 11 (Grades 4-6)
- Bee Pollen Popular (PDF): This workbook educates students about different types of pollinators – from bats to bees – and their importance to our environment. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- How To: Build a Model Watershed (PDF): This model watershed demonstrates how water picks up sediment and pollutants as it flows – and that simple measures can reduce the amount of polluted runoff that ends up in your watershed. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Build a Rain Garden (PDF): Stormwater runoff is a leading cause of pollution in our streams and lakes. Driveways, roads, and parking lots block water from draining into the ground. Lawns are not much better, unless they have a place where the water can go. Enter the rain garden. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Plan a Pollinator Garden (PDF): From planting cover and food plots to cleaning up water resources, Ikes are working to restore native habitat for game and non-game species alike. One important group that may not be on your list: Pollinators. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Vermicompost (Worm Compost) (PDF): Because a worm will eat its weight in table scraps, vermicomposting is a triple win: You recycle waste, produce organic fertilizer for house and garden plants, and raise worms you can use for fishing. (Izaak Walton League)
- Make a Solar Oven (PDF): Instructions on making a solar oven from scratch. (U.S. Department of Energy)
- Root Words (5MG PDF): Quizzes and a word search that educate kids about soil. From the Smithsonian Institution. Be patient – it's a large file! (Smithsonian Institution)
- Soil Is Alive (PDF): From mineral content to capturing carbon, this workbook describes all the amazing features of soil. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Ages 12 to 17 (Grades 7-12)
- Build a Basic PVC Wind Turbine (PDF): This wind turbine model is designed to be used as an educational tool. (Kidwind Project)
- How To: Build a 3-Bin Composter (PDF): You can easily turn waste into useful compost—and help the environment in the process. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Build a Bat Box (PDF): More than half the bat species in the United States are declining or already listed as endangered, mostly because of habitat loss. Not only do bats help control insect populations (a single bat can eat up to 2,000 mosquitoes in one night), they also pollinate plants and disperse seeds. To help compensate for habitat loss, you can build a “bat box.” (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Build a Fish Crib (PDF): Discarded PVC pipes can be used to build “fish cribs”—places where bass, bluegills, and other lake species can hide, feed, and reproduce, making for better fishing and aquatic health. Any discarded plastic materials that can create a solid structure could be used, so be creative. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Build a Rain Barrel (PDF): The average American family uses 120 gallons of water each day for outdoor use, much of it for watering lawns and gardens. One way you can help ease the strain on reservoirs and wells is to build a rain barrel to collect and recycle rainwater. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Build a Vernal Pond (PDF): These ponds provide wildlife habitat, attract mosquito-eating critters, reduce runoff, and serve as teaching tools. (Izaak Walton League)
- How To: Build a Wood Duck Box (PDF): Most waterfowl nest on the ground, but wood ducks prefer depositing their eggs in the holes of mature trees, which means the ducks lose their nesting sites whenever forests are cleared. America’s wood duck population has dropped significantly over the last century. Fortunately, wood ducks readily adapt to nest boxes. (Izaak Walton League)
Chapter Activities for the Whole Family
The League's Chapter Manual offers a wealth of program ideas, with two-page activity starters to help you get a program off the ground, plus details on resources needed and chapters that have run similar successful programs.
- Family Day Outings (PDF): Organize and host an all-day event that provides opportunities for families to spend time together while learning a new outdoor activity. This is a great way for chapter members to meet each other. These events also provide an excellent low-key way to attract new members.
- Hunter Education (PDF): Chapters can provide a public service by offering hunter education and safety course several times a year to the community and chapter members. Hunter education courses typically attract non-members (for example, hunting families with younger novice hunters) and provide a great tool for member recruitment. Hunting courses also reinforce the connection between hunting and wildlife management and conservation.
- National Hunting and Fishing Day (PDF): These events highlight the tremendous contribution hunting and fishing make to our economy and fish and wildlife management. Such events publicly promote the positive contribution that hunters and anglers make to conservation and the League’s mission.
- Scouting (PDF): Scouting offers an array of training programs that include outdoor experiences and values. Your chapter will benefit by engaging well-educated youth who are eager to complete conservation projects. By sponsoring and mentoring a Scout group, your chapter will provide a community service and receive community recognition.
- Wildlife Habitat Improvement (PDF): These projects can restore native wildlife species to your region, increase wildlife viewing opportunities for nature watchers, and improve experiences for hunters. They are great projects for local youth groups or students who need to earn community service hours.
- Youth Conservation Camp/Outdoor Classroom (PDF): A youth camp will allow children to spend time with Izaak Walton League members, naturalists, and other natural resource experts learning about conservation problems and solutions.
- Youth Fishing Event (PDF): Youth fishing events are excellent opportunities for the public to learn about your chapter’s conservation activities.
- Youth Hunting Events (PDF): These events can attract potential members, introduce children to the joy of outdoor recreation, teach participants safe and responsible hunting techniques, and educate participants about managing wildlife populations and the role hunters play in promoting conservation practices.
State Agency Web Pages for Kids and Educators
- Arizona: Department of Environmental Quality DEQ for Kids
- California: Department of Transportation Kids Page
- Colorado: Division of Wildlife Student Activities
- Delaware: State of Delaware Kids Page
- Florida: Department of Environmental Protection Kids Page
- Georgia: State Parks Educational Resources
- Idaho: State of Idaho, Just for Kids
- Illinois: Department of Natural Resources, Kids & Education
- Indiana: Department of Natural Resources Kids Page
- Iowa: Department of Natural Resources KIDS
- Louisiana: Department of Natural Resources, Students Page
- Maine: State of Maine, Maine Kids
- Maryland: Department of the Environment Kids Page
- Michigan: State of Michigan, Michigan Kids
- Minnesota: Department of Natural Resources, DNR for Kids! and State Parks Kids' Programs
- Mississippi: Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Youth Programs
- Missouri: Department of Natural Resources, Education and Interpretation
- Montana: Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Youth Page
- Nebraska: Game and Parks Commission, Just for Kids
- New Mexico: Environment Department Air Quality Kids Page
- New York: Department of Environmental Conservation, Student Information
- North Carolina: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Kids Page
- Ohio: Department of Natural Resources Park Pals
- Pennsylvania: Department of Environmental Protection Just for Kids
- South Dakota: Department of Environment and Natural Resources Kids Page
- Texas: Texas Parks and Wildlife, Outdoor Kids
- Washington: Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Students and Teachers Page
- West Virginia: Division of Natural Resources Kid Zone
- Wisconsin: Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Education for Kids (EEK!)
- Wyoming: Wyoming Game and Fish Department Education Page
IWLA National Scholarships: Know a college student with a passion for protecting America's outdoors? The League’s National Conservation Scholarship provides two $2,500 scholarships for qualified college juniors or seniors studying a conservation- or environment-related major. Applications accepted January 1 through April 1.