Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer Tips: Water Safety

The long Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer season. Families travel to the beach and to lakes, rivers, and ponds for what is also the start of the swimming and boating season.

Living near water as we do, water safety is an important part of our family life. Our children learned early that they were never, ever allowed in the water without an adult present. They learned to swim early, too. Still, I shudder to remember the occasions I saw Virgil wandering down to the water alone, and the one time before he learned to swim that he ran right into the water and kept going. He was fully submerged — but still moving forward — when Jim plucked him from the water.

The most dangerous water our children were on when they were little, however, was the reservoir where their grandfather spends his summers. We’re often there in large family groups. People mill about on the dock and along the shore; beer flows freely. After Ursula was born, one of the other moms took me aside and explained that I should never lose sight of her at those lake gatherings. No one else is going to watch her for you, she warned, and reminded me that her middle child had tumbled off the crowded dock without a sound. She dove in and rescued him — but if she hadn’t been watching, she told me, he would have drowned, less than five feet from his family.

I was reminded of her chilling story recently while reading a national study of drowning incidents involving children. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years and children 10 to 14 years, and the third cause of death for children under one. Nine out of 10 of those children drowned in the presence of a parent or caregiver — an incredible number to me, until I learned that children drown quickly and silently, without the thrashing and calls for help we’re used to seeing in the movies. Not surprisingly, drowning deaths spike between May and August.

So please, this summer, follow these guidelines for water safety:

• Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention. Adults who were present when a child drowned were often distracted: on the phone, in conversation, reading. Consider appointing a designated “water watcher,” taking turns with other adults. In big gatherings, hand off a card, whistle, or other item between water watchers to avoid gaps in supervision.
• Enroll your child in swimming lessons after age 4, considered the earliest age children can retain information about water safety. Teach children how to tread water, float, and stay by the shore in open water. But don’t assume that swimming lessons “drown-proof” a child.
• Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: They need to be aware of uneven ground below water, river currents, ocean undertow, and changing weather.
• Teach children to get out of the water as soon as they hear thunder or see lightning. Explain that lightning is electricity, and that electricity and water are a dangerous combination.
• Learn infant and child CPR and keep a phone nearby in case of an emergency. Immediately giving CPR to a drowning victim reduces the risk of brain damage and can mean the difference between life and death.
• Do not let children operate personal watercraft such as jet skis. These are intended for adults and require special training.
• Invest in proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved flotation devices and use them whenever a child is on a boat, near water, or participating in water sports. A life jacket should fit snugly and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through the neck opening. For younger children, choose a life jacket with a strap between the legs and head support. The collar keeps a child’s head up and face out of the water.

I dwell on this scary side of swimming, because the other side of swimming is so joyful for us, as I expect it is for many other families. Sliding into cool, clean water is absolutely one of our favorite things to do out of doors — and not just to escape summer heat. We do it for splashing and exercise and doing flips underwater, for jumping off ledges into swimming holes, for playing king of the raft, for simply floating and looking up at the sky. Armed with these safety guidelines, I’ll be making some adjustments to our time in the water, though. I want it to remain a joyous part of our lives.

Learn more
- CDC guidelines on home and recreational water safety
- 5 Truths about Water Safety (SafeKids USA)

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Birds'-Eye View of Spring

“Are you my mother?” That was the question asked by one of our kids’ favorite characters, in the book of the same name by P.D. Eastman. The Beginning Reader book was first published in 1960, long enough ago to have been one of my favorite picture books as a kid, too.

The main character is a baby bird who hatches while his mother is away from the nest looking for food. After falling from his nest, the scrawny little fellow sets off in search of a mother he’s never seen, asking a kitten, hen, dog, cat, even a big piece of earth-moving equipment along the way, “Are you my mother?”

This morning, we discovered how much that baby and the mother he finds by story’s end were drawn from real life.

A few weeks ago, we noticed a fat mama robin dipping in under the roof of our back porch, carrying bits of dry grass and twigs in her beak. We watched her from the window by our kitchen sink, and saw that she was building a nest on the curling top of our toboggan, which we’d set upright against the wall but hadn’t yet put away for the season.

At first she fluttered off the nest every time one of us stepped up to the window. But she seemed to decide that she could live with our occasional presence, as well as the occasional kitchen light shining out on her in the darkness. Despite such a wet spring, her nest stayed dry under the porch’s roof.

Over the past weeks, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing her sitting atop the nest. We’ve been struck by the likeness between the image out our window and P.D. Eastman’s drawings: the same maternal plumpness, the uncanny exactness of her posture, the beak slightly lifted. (Though our mother bird wears her red prominently on her breast, not in a red kerchief tied under her beak.)

Jim looked out from the sink early this morning and saw something new: papa bird standing on the side of the nest, an earthworm dangling from his beak. Father passed the worm to mother, who bent over and lowered it just as the tiny open beak of a chick popped up to meet it. As the baby bobbed up and down more insistently, Jim saw its head, still dark and wet — plus spiky feathers on top and a scrawny neck that, honest-to-god, was the spitting image of Eastman’s baby bird.

It was easy to get the kids up when we told them the first robin had hatched. We couldn’t watch his ungainly movements without laughing. Now three small chicks crowd their nest and keep their parents busy feeding them.

P.D. Eastman, clearly, had been a close observer of this particular rite of spring. We’re grateful to have had the chance, too.

Learn more
- Learn more about the P.D. Eastman book, Are You My Mother?
- Watch a YouTube video reading of the book.

- Watch a YouTube video of robins feeding their hatchlings.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

3 takes on 50 Dangerous Things

“Let kids play with fire, and other rules for good parenting,” read the title on a rave book review of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) by Gever Tulley and Julie Speigler, published this month by Penguin under the New American Library imprint. “I’m a parent who lets my children play with fire,” I thought, and requested a review copy. This week, Ursula, Virgil, and I went through the book, separately and together, and talked about it. We had different reactions.

Virgil saw the cover of the book, set off by drawings of a kid throwing a spear, a slingshot, and a fire inside a stone ring, and immediately said, “Cool!” He liked everything inside the book, too: the “you can do this” descriptions of 50 different, “dangerous” activities; the arch sense of humor (yellow triangles illustrate a range of possible risks, including dismemberment and amputation, for each activity — perfect for a third-grader); the pledge inside the front cover that starts with the words, “I, __________, will demonstrate that danger can be conquered with skill and determination.”

At a certain point during his turn with the book, he asked me for some scrap paper, to mark the pages of the activities he wanted to try. When he handed the book back to me, it was stuffed with page markers.

Ursula, on the other hand, thought the book didn’t live up to its title. “If it was really ‘50 dangerous things,’” she complained, “it would have things like climbing mountains or flying planes or shooting a gun.” At age 12, she’s old enough to be skeptical of marketing claims. She pointed out to Virgil that they’ve already done more than 30 of the book’s 50 activities, and that most of the things in the book — like hammering nails (Dangerous Activity #6) and making a rope swing (Activity #44) — aren’t really dangerous if you do them right.

She shrugged her shoulders when I asked if she’d use the book. After thinking about it some more, she decided that it wasn’t written with her in mind — although she admitted that she hadn’t thought about licking a battery (Activity #1) before, and now she might.

Even if she was turned off by the book’s title, Ursula did catch, I thought, one of the book’s main themes. In their “Introduction for Grown-ups,” Tulley and Spiegler explain that they want to encourage “competence”: “the child who grows up in the woods will always be more comfortable there than the child who reads about wood lore in a book, just as the child who actually squashes a penny on a railroad track will have a deeper, more concrete understanding of the physics involved than the one who watches a video of it.” They designed their activities to get kids to try stuff, explore and experiment.

Some of those experiments extend interestingly into human relationships, to what we risk or gain in how we treat each other. Reading the description for Activity #36 — Poison Your Friends — I remembered the “milk shakes” that my brothers and I used to make for each other (actually concoctions of the vilest stuff we could find in the kitchen, whipped up to look like vanilla or chocolate shakes), and our efforts to get each other to take a sip. The “poison” in Activity #36 is salt, 3 or 4 tablespoons’ worth added to a cookie recipe. But the lesson worked just as well for fake milk shakes: “Tricking your friends into biting into a salty cookie might be easy the first time,” Tulley and Spiegler write. “Getting them to do it the second time may take some planning.” In case the point wasn’t clear, they add, “Every time you trick your friend, they will trust you a little less.” I liked that one of the book’s “dangerous things” was actually a lesson in trust.

I was bothered, however, by the view of parents that emerges from the book. Tulley and Speigler write as if we all are too afraid to let our children explore or take risks, and too quick to bring lawsuits when accidents do happen. Maybe the two authors are spending time with a very different group of parents (they make no mention of children of their own), but I distrusted their understanding of the balancing act attempted by most parents of my acquaintance. Being a parent means protecting your children and allowing them to develop skills and confidence to live full lives on their own, at the same time. At times, the book reads as if it's written by kids who've grown up just enough to think they know better than their parents, but not enough to know what it means to be a parent.

If I bristle at how 50 Dangerous Things portrays parents, I like just about everything else in the book. It’s pitched to exactly the right frequency for a curious kid. I have crossed a couple of activities off Virgil’s list — no throwing bananas or oranges out of the window of a moving car (Activity #15), not in this family, and no blowing up things in our microwave (Activity #14), unless he’s prepared to buy a new one — and told him that his life will be much more dangerous if he doesn’t clean up after every kitchen-floor experiment. Last night, he and Ursula took apart an old Sony Walkman of Jim’s (Activity #34, Deconstruct an Appliance). They worked together to figure out how to open the case, shared the screwdrivers and the wire cutters, and showed me their progress. Virgil was glad to hear that the book is ours to keep. He wants to keep track on the book’s “Field Notes” pages.

Learn more

- Read the Atlantic magazine review, “Let kids play with fire, and other rules for good parenting.”
- Learn more about 50 Dangerous Things and the Tinkering School.
- Listen to the TEDTalk, Gever Tulley’s “5 Dangerous Things,” that led to the expanded list and the book.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Junior Naturalist: Beavers

Nature’s engineers are back on our pond. Unlike the two-legged kind, they don’t set up orange cones around their work sites — but we’ve learned to recognize the signs of their activity all the same. One is the growing pile of saplings, freshly trimmed of their bark, on top of the beaver lodge at the water’s edge. We’ve also seen their logging roads — muddy ruts running down to the water from stands of poplar, maple, birch, and alder.

John Kulish, in Bobcats Before Breakfast, calls beavers “Mother Nature’s Corps of Engineers,” and even offers a tongue-in-cheek course guide for the “technical school” that all young beavers attend. Kulish’s courses include “Introductory Tree Identification, Advanced Selective Cutting, The Natural Philosophy of Water Pressures and Currents, Scientific Erosion Control, Tunnel- and Canal-building,” and more. Young beavers stay with their parents a full two years, partly to attend what might as well be called their community college of logging, dam-building, lodge construction, and winter food management.

At this time of year, these fur-covered civil engineers work the third shift, from nightfall to daybreak. Using nothing more than their four large front teeth, called incisors, and their powerful jaws, beavers can cut down trees 4 feet in diameter. They eat the bark of the trees and use the remaining wood in their lodges and dams.

We haven’t seen any signs that our neighboring beaver community has grown, but kits may have been born in the lodge earlier this spring. If so, they may already be taking nighttime swims with their mom, their heads just nosing up above the surface of the water and their signature V-shaped wakes trailing behind them. If we’re lucky, we may surprise a beaver on its regular rounds and hear one of the loudest sounds in nature, the slap of a beaver’s broad tail on water.

If you have a wooden canoe paddle, you can replicate that sound by holding the paddle blade high and letting it fall flat against the water. The paddles that make the best sound are the ones with rounded, tear-drop blades — the kind they call “beavertails.”

Other beaver facts:

- The beaver is the largest North American rodent, at about three feet in body length and another foot for its tail. Beavers in northern New England commonly weigh 30 to 70 pounds, but can grow to be more than 100 pounds.

- A beaver has two pairs of eyelids. An inner, transparent pair acts like a scuba diver’s goggles, protecting the beaver’s eyes while it’s underwater.

- It’s estimated that 60 million beaver gnawed at North American forests before the Mayflower landed. Beaver pelts became the currency of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The trade went so well that the new colony was debt-free by 1640.

- When the New Hampshire state legislature voted in 1905 to give beavers protected status, they had been hunted so intensively that none could be found. The large rodents were reintroduced several decades later, and the population has since re-established itself across the state.

Learn more

- National Geographic facts about beavers.

- David Attenborough narrates this BBC video of beavers building a lodge.

- Although sadly no longer in print, John Kulish’s book, Bobcats Before Breakfast, is worth borrowing from a library or finding used for interested readers ages 9 and up.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Growing up Jane Goodall

When Ursula was seven years old, she decided that she wanted to be Jane Goodall. Her second-grade class had learned about Goodall’s groundbreaking work as a naturalist in Africa, and Ursula’s imagination was fired by the idea of living among chimpanzees in the dense forests of Tanzania. In fact, she liked the thought of that life so much that she made it clear that she didn’t want to grow up to study animals or have a career like Jane Goodall — she wanted to be Jane Goodall.

Ursula reminded me of this recently when we were talking about work she’d like to do when she’s older. Now that she’s almost a teenager, that list has expanded. But it continues to include jobs in the outdoors and field work — like the work of her first role model.

So when I saw a review of two children’s books about Jane Goodall in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, I stopped to read. The picture books — Me … Jane, by Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the comic strip “Mutts”; and The Watcher, by Jeanette Winter — help young children learn how someone grows up to be Jane Goodall.

Both books follow the standard life of the young naturalist. Young Jane spent her childhood largely outdoors and in the company of animals both domestic (horses, chickens, dogs) and wild (turtles, even earthworms). She was, as the title of Winter’s book makes clear, a patient observer of her world. A telling incident that appears in both books has five-year-old Jane sitting for hours in a chicken coop, determined to understand exactly how eggs come from chickens.

Goodall was also strongly influenced by several books: The Story of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting, which delighted her with its descriptions of a man who talked to the animals; and Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which offered a vision of an African paradise, and a man who learned to live among the wild apes. Goodall gave Tarzan’s given name, Greystoke, to the first chimpanzee who befriended her in the early years of her research at what became the Gombe Stream National Park.

It’s possible that the new books will serve similar purposes for young girls and boys who are drawn to the natural world. The pictures will be appreciated by very young children, the stories and larger themes by readers in the elementary grades. I won’t be surprised if Ursula enjoys these books, too. I think she’ll feel a kinship with the young girl who grew up to become Jane Goodall — and perhaps will gain new understanding about her own dreams.

Learn more

- The Jane Goodall Institute describes ongoing research at Gombe.

- The JGI website also includes information about Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program for young people, now in its 20th year. The New England regional office lists more than 250 affiliated schools, museums, and programs in Massachusetts alone.

- Read reviews of Me…Jane and The Watcher in The New York Times Book Review.

- Watch a video interview with Jane Goodall about the new children’s books.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Make your own summer camp

If you fly Southwest Airlines this month, take a look at the in-flight magazine in your seat-back. The photo on the cover is of our pond, and the story inside is about a two-week theater camp that we’ve run out of our house the past three summers. I didn’t write the article — Jim did — but as he worked on it, we both realized that we’d discovered (or rediscovered, more like) a working parents’ guide to creating your own summer camp.

We live on a property that happened to be run as a summer camp for most of the twentieth century, but we weren’t interested in continuing that history when we bought it. Then we had children, and work to get done, and what started out as an idea for shared babysitting unexpectedly turned into a lakeside theater camp.

Here’s the funny thing we learned, though, as Jim wrote: “The lake isn’t important and the theater isn’t important.” What was important was that we found two teenagers — Ian and Eben — who loved theater and loved teaching it to kids. They could have taught art or music, or simply organized summer activities, and the kids would have loved it, because Ian and Eben made it fun. It didn't hurt, either, that the last hour of every day was good old-fashioned running around outside fun.

This year our theater camp will run at full capacity, 16 kids each week. That’s all our house and Ian and Eben can handle. Thankfully, the kids spend the last hour of each day running around outside. Last year, when the number of parents and relatives coming to watch the Friday performances outgrew our barn, we moved the shows to the town hall.

Other camp start-up guides might begin with instructions to hire an attorney, develop a business plan, and form a board of directors. We did none of that — and found that starting our own summer camp wasn’t all that hard. In just a few years, the camp has become its own small community, and part of a larger one, as well.

Here are some things we learned along the way:

- Find a teenager. More specifically, find a teen or young adult who’s great with kids and who has a talent to share. That could be a babysitter, a nanny, or an older child. (You or another parent might also take on this role, but we suspect that kids like our camp precisely because it isn’t run by adults.) You can also find talented young actors, artists, and musicians through local schools or community arts groups.

- Have a grown-up off-stage. Ian and Eben, our theater-camp guys, are both responsible, but we felt more comfortable also having at least one adult present at all times. We think other families were more willing to send their children to our camp because, as writers who work at home, we were often there. Other parents helped when we couldn’t be present.

- Start small. We had six kids the first year — our two, plus Ian’s younger brother, his niece, and two neighbors. We asked families to pay $20 a day. That first camp was successful, but if it hadn’t been, no one would have been out much money or effort.

- It's not a business. In terms of our overall organization, what we’re doing may not even rise to the level of a babysitting coop. All the money that comes in goes to pay Ian and Eben, minus what we spend on food. We already know the families that join us, so we share a high degree of trust. Early on, we didn’t even think about things like liability insurance, though you may want to.

- Ask for help. We started the camp with the idea that it would free up time for us to work. It took us a couple of years to admit that we weren’t getting enough done and to start asking other parents to help us out. We encourage you to ask others to pitch in from the beginning, whether it’s to shop for food or to move furniture back into place when camp is over.

- Look at the big picture. We’ve definitely complicated our lives by running a theater camp. But our children have been able to spend part of their summers “at home,” which they like, and to share the experience with friends, which they really like. We’ve been able to help two talented young men gain work experience, and some money, to boot. And we’ve had the pleasure of building something special together with other families.

Learn more

- Read “Camp DIY” (Spirit magazine, May 2011).

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dos and Dont's of Bicycle Safety for Children and Families

May, the merry month of flowers and warm days and lengthening daylight, is National Bike Month. With summer just around the corner, it's a great time to think about bike safety for children.

Tom Ebersold leads about 30 bike trips a year for AMC's Connecticut Chapter, several of them geared for families with children. He also helped run a cycling camp for children in New York. Ebersold offers the following bike safety tips, along with supporting information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the advocacy group Safe Kids.

Fit the bicycle to the child. Children should be able to sit on the seat of a bicycle, with hands on the handlebars, and place the balls of both feet on the ground. "A bicycle that is too large for the child is unsafe," Ebersold says. He recommends erring on the side of buying too small a bike—it's easy to raise the seat, or even buy a longer seat post.

Use an age-appropriate brake system.
First bicycles for young children should be equipped with foot brakes. In young children, hand muscles and coordination aren't developed enough to control hand brakes. Older children should be taught how to use hand brakes. Ebersold says, "Some beginners are afraid to use the front brake because they're afraid of locking the front wheel and getting thrown over the handlebars. But if the child uses just the back brake, the bike doesn't stop well and the back wheel can skid out."

Wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent, according to research by Safe Kids USA. "Too often I see kids riding without helmets," Ebersold says—"and even when they are wearing helmets, they're rarely wearing them properly." Kids, he's noticed, tend to tip the helmets back on the head, which means the forehead is exposed and unprotected. "A properly worn helmet needs to sit level on the head," he says. "The straps should be snug enough that if the child opens his mouth, the helmet straps pull down on the head."

Parental role modeling makes a big difference in whether children wear bike helmets. In another Safe Kids study, 90 percent of children who didn't wear bike helmets had parents who never wore bike helmets. Children whose parents always wore helmets and also set clear expectations for helmet use, not surprisingly, were far more likely to wear helmets—and to influence their friends to wear them, too.

Young adolescents may require additional reinforcement for wearing helmets. It can be helpful to remind them that increasing skills mean increasing risks.

Different helmets fit differently, so it's important to bring a child along to the store when purchasing a helmet. Bike shop employees should help fit the helmet. They can also help reinforce the importance of wearing the helmet each time the child is on a bicycle.

Practice bike skills with children. Ebersold suggests practicing bike skills with children on a wide, quiet street or in a parking lot. "While rail trails, for instance, are a natural draw for families," he says, "they may not be as safe as they appear. A heavily congested trail can be difficult to navigate, in part because children are impulsive and will do unpredictable things like making abrupt U-turns." Kids should have lots of space around them when first practicing their skills.

Follow the rules of the road. "Bicycles follow the same rules of the road as cars," Ebersold reminds us. "Ride on the right side of the road and NEVER against traffic." The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that almost a quarter of bicycle-car collisions occurred while bicyclists were riding against traffic. Children shouldn't ride in streets until they're able to use a simplified hand-signal system, right arm for a right turn and left arm for a left turn. According to AAP, accidents involving older children often occur when riders fail to signal their intentions to motorists.

Keep in mind that our streets, even in residential areas, have more cars on them, and people are driving faster and more distractedly on them, than when today's parents were children.

Don't let children ride at night.
Riding a bicycle at night requires special skills and special equipment. Children are also not developmentally able to assess the risks involved with nighttime riding. AAP urges parents never to allow children to ride at dusk or after dark.

Match safety practices and information to the child's development.
Young children just learning to ride tricycles and bicycles need constant supervision. Research has shown that in middle childhood and early adolescence, children's skill levels and risk-taking behavior increase, but crucial other skills that help them avoid injury lag behind. At early ages, eye-hand coordination is not yet fully developed, and children don't recognize obstacles as quickly as adults do, or avoid those obstacles as quickly. (Young riders tend to avoid obstacles in two discrete steps—recognizing the obstacle and then executing avoidance action—while older teens and adults integrate the two steps.) Young riders also lack the ability to scan visually crowded space, as in a street with parked cars, moving traffic, and pedestrians. Needless to say, this is an important skill to have as a cyclist.

Riding bicycles around the neighborhood or all over town is a time-honored activity of American childhood. By following just a few basic procedures, it can be a safe one, as well.

Learn more

- The Bike League is the official site for National Bike Month.
- Safe Kids USA research reports and a bicycle safety guide are available online.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled an injury-prevention fact sheet, "Bicycle Safety: Myths and Facts."

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Celebrating Mother’s Day in (Outdoor) Style

Before I was actually a mother, Mother’s Day was one of my favorite days of the year. In the Pacific Northwest, where I lived then, I spent the second Sundays in May hiking up post-eruption Mt. St. Helens in a party dress with a group of similarly dressed friends, skis stuck into our packs. When we pointed our tips downhill, the dresses that billowed out behind us made the long ski runs even better. If I thought about the Mother’s Day connection during those years, it was to decide that dressing up to ski a mountain named after a woman was a perfect way to celebrate the day.

The tradition we’ve developed here is a bit less, well, dressy. But it is a tradition: Every Mother’s Day, we go for a family hike. Our hikes are often short and nearby and certainly don’t involve volcanoes. In fact, they don’t even involve party dresses. I don’t mind, though: I still feel the joy of being outside together, whether we’re looking for trout lilies on the way up Mt. Cardigan or trying out a new trail farther afield.

That said, I haven’t let go of the box with my party favorites — the neon pink pajamas, the strapless black dress that looked great over long underwear, the black-and-white polka dot tutu. I think there’s a good chance that I’ll ski Mt. St. Helens in one of those dresses again, maybe even with my family by my side. In fact, I recently heard that hundreds of people now ski Mt. St. Helens in party dresses each Mother’s Day.

It’s not too late to join the AMC family-friendly hikes listed below. Or make your own outdoor celebration. However you spend this day that celebrates mothers, it’s worth remembering that our living planet is sometimes called Gaia, for the Greek goddess of the earth. Her more approachable English name, of course, is Mother Earth.

Maybe I’ll get those party dresses down after all.

Family Fun Fest at Noble View Outdoor Center. Russell, Mass. Friday, May 6, to Sunday, May 8. This is the fourth or fifth year that the Worcester Chapter has organized a three-day weekend for all AMC families. The weekend includes hikes, outdoor games, campfires, s'mores, movies and popcorn, and potluck meals. Lodging on Friday and Saturday nights is in newly renovated cottages. A few spaces still remain.

Mother's Day Welcome Weekend & Sunday Buffet Brunch. Highland Center at Crawford Notch, New Hampshire. Friday, May 6, to Sunday, May 8. This three-day weekend focused on Mother's Day includes daily hikes, interpretive programs, kid's crafts, a Mother's Day buffet — even massage sessions!

Cardigan Lodge hikes and summit climb. Mt. Cardigan, New Hampshire. Saturday, May 7. The New Hampshire Chapter is hosting a day of family activities at Cardigan Lodge. Families can choose between an easy morning hike down the Lower Manning Trail toward Welton Falls; a moderate afternoon hike of no more than five mile for families up Orange Mountain or Cardigan Mountain; and a summit climb of Mt. Cardigan that is appropriate for children ages 7 and up with some hiking experience.

Nickerson State Park. Brewster, Mass. Sunday, May 8. An afternoon Mother’s Day walk around Cape Cod ponds and woodland trails.

Follow the links for more details. Remember that these hikes and activities require prior registration and may involve other fees.

Photo: Kathy Phibbs, founding mother of the Mt. St. Helens ski party. Credit Rachel da Silva.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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