From the Trails: Make outside the ‘in’ thing

Written by Kaitie Eddington and published in the Valley News on February 16th, 2022

When you think of beloved family memories, how many of them take place outdoors?

We know the positive impact outdoor engagement has on an individual, but how do natural spaces influence families? Upon further research and discovery, I was not surprised to read that outdoor engagement for families was overwhelmingly positive.

In the research library curated by the Children and Nature Network, I came across various articles that discuss how family-based nature activities were associated with improved health and family functioning. Families that engage in regular outdoor activity report noticeable improvements in communication, friendship and bonding.

Nature provides an environment free from the distractions of everyday life. With limited access to technology and work and school stressors, families can connect in more meaningful ways.

At the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, we are halfway through the 2022 season of our Passport to Winter Fun program. We have loved receiving pictures of families all over the Upper Valley enjoying the program and playing together outside.

The Passport to Winter Fun is a fitness incentive program designed to keep kids in grades kindergarten to six outdoors and physically active in the long New England winter.

Recreating outdoors has innumerable benefits to one’s health and well-being, especially in winter, when seasonal affective disorder runs rampant throughout the region. As outlined in the UVTA’s mission, one of our key goals as an organization is to promote active lifestyles through trail use during every season. The Passport program was created as a means of accomplishing this goal in younger Upper Valley residents.

Each Passport booklet contains forms called the front and back flaps that include questions to help us measure the effectiveness of the program by acting as pre- and post-assessments.

The front flap is completed at the start of the program, and the back flap is completed at its end. Both flaps ask the same questions and help us see how the program impacted the individual participant throughout the season.

One of the questions is: “Did you do any of the activities with your family? Yes or No?” The changing results of this question is always heartwarming.

In our findings from the Passport to Winter Fun, more of our participants answer yes to doing outdoor activities with their families after completing the program than they did when the program started.

These pre- and post-assessments always bring a smile to my face. It’s wonderful to think the program inspires kids to play outdoors and create fun family memories.

For more information on the benefits of family-based nature activities, visit for an extensive research library. Learn more about the Passport to Winter Fun program at