Nature is awesome, and a connection with nature is crucial for healthy child development, but children today aren’t getting outside. Here’s what’s going on:
* Kids in 2010 spend an average of seven and a half hours a day staring at their electronic screens (Ten and a half if you take multitasking into account.)
* Fewer than 1 in 5 children walk or ride a bike to school (compared to 40 percent of children in 1969)
* Eighty percent of children under age 2 and more than 60 percent of children ages 2 to 5 lack daily access to outdoor play
* The number of children who participated in outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, and fishing dropped by 50 percent between 1997 and 2003
As a result,
* Childhood obesity has increased from around 4 percent in the 1960s to about 20% today, and
* Children aged 8 – 11 in Britain can identify Pokemon characters twice as readily as real, living things, such as oak trees, sparrows, and otters.
Why aren’t more kids getting out? As an advisor to a couple of parenting sites, I’ve received several questions on the lines of, “I have two boys, ages 6 and 8, who want to spend all their time on the couch, watching TV or playing video games. When I tell them to go outside and play, they come back 5 minutes later, telling me they’re bored, they don’t know what to do, and there are no other kids out there.”
Seeing a challenge, and being a passionate believer in the importance of outdoor experiences for kids, I decided to write a book: Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future (Free Spirit, 2009). That’s right, 150 different ideas for getting all of us out into nature. Most of them are really very simple. For example:
* Find squirrel highways. Watch the squirrels in your yard or at a park for a while and see if you can identify their favorite routes – or “squirrel highways.”
* Turn a walk into a safari. Take a closer look at birds, bugs, shrubs and trees when you pass. Bring a magnifying glass to really zoom in.
* Create your own treasure hunt. Kids will be more engaged if you include several weird or gross items on your list, such as a dead bug, a bird feather, a worm, a leaf bigger than your hand, a cup of mud.
* Have a daily “green hour.” Ten or fifteen minutes is fine; it doesn’t have to be an hour. But set time aside to get out every day. Even when it’s wet outside, you can still get out and play together as long as you’re dressed for the weather.
My book has 150 tips, but even with all these ideas, it’s only scratching the surface, like a garden trowel scraping a handful of soil from the earth. I know you can come up with lots more tips, so Care2 is giving away five copies of Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future to the five best ideas for getting out into nature.
Submit your ideas here for our free BOOK GIVEAWAY!
ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING EARTH DAY:
HOW ARE ANIMALS AFFECTED?
THINGS TO PONDER
THOSE MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Creative Commons - Michel Filion
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