It takes a village to raise a child.
- African proverb
Even as my child has become more independent and comfortable entering into new situations and meeting new friends, I still feel a twinge of apprehension when I drop her off at a new program. I wonder if she’ll have a good time and make friends, but I wonder even more if the program staff will recognize their importance as members of the “village” parents rely on to help raise our children, as too often I have witnessed staff at youth programs gathered together to talk amongst themselves, chatting on their phones, applying make-up, or gathering the kids in front of a TV.
I grew up in Austin during the 70s. At that time, Austin was still a small city and my friends and I had the good fortune of being among the last generations of children to have the freedom to run freely in our neighborhoods. We explored creeks, built forts, picked mulberries, and floated leaf boats in the rain gutter. We wandered the hike and bike trail, made up games, spent hours at local pools, and generally did not return home until the grumbling in our bellies became impossible to ignore.
When my daughter was 9, my family rented several adjacent lakeside houses for a family reunion. That was the first time she was allowed to run around outdoors for hours at a time without my direct supervision, and even then she was required to check in with me every 20-30 minutes. Times have changed. Understandably, many parents do not feel safe allowing their children to spend unsupervised time outdoors and working parents don’t always have spare time to spend outdoors with their children. Additionally, structured after school classes and electronics that were unavailable to prior generations, often supplant childhood interest in the outdoors.
I’ve worked with children for over 20 years in child care programs, youth camps, as a Girl Scout leader, and as a public school teacher. I believe the roll of any professional working with young people is to engage the children, listen to their stories, foster friendships, encourage acceptance of self and others, and to encourage fascination about and respect for our world. Austin Outdoor Kids would like to assist parents by leading their children into the outdoors to explore, discover, and get dirty from head to toe. While there are inherent risks involved in outdoor adventure, branches may poke and rocks may trip, our staff will take every precaution to provide fun and safe experiences for your child and hope to gain your trust as integral members of your family’s village.