Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about outdoor play. Sending the kids outside every day to get some fresh air. Easier said than done though, right? They come in after fifteen minutes, “I’m bored”. Add in distractions like television, iPads, Wii, a playroom inside…it makes it even more difficult. And if you’re like me and have a little one at home too there’s not a whole lot of outdoor time you can spend outdoors with them. So I’ve been finding myself back at square one with the older two. Wanting them to play more outside and needing to find ways to make it work, ways to make it a priority.
Why should it be a priority? Your kids probably don’t spend nearly as much time outdoors as you think they do. Research shows that the average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen. These changes in play for our kids have profound impacts. Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled the last 20 years and the United States has become the largest consumer of ADHD medications in the world, and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants have risen precipitously.
The benefits of outdoor play are clear and many. Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, which is an important tool in helping the one in three American kids who are obese to get fit. The levels of Vitamin D in children is also raised by spending time outside, which can help protect them from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.
In 2007, the National Wildlife Federation launched GreenHour.org, an online resource providing parents the inspiration and tools to make the outdoors a part of daily life. The NWF recommends that parents give their kids a “Green Hour” every day, that can take place in a backyard, a park, a garden, on a hike, or any place that provides “safe and accessible green spaces where children can learn and play”.
Finding an hour can be a challenge for parents, especially if it means the kids need your full supervision, but I’ve got some tips on how to make filling that hour even easier. Some are pretty straightforward, but are necessary to help spark your inspiration to get them out there.
- take a color walk
- make a soda bottle terrarium
- make a bird feeder
- make mud recipes
- make a luminaria
- go geocaching
- check out the calendar at Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park
Check out these local outdoor activities for families coming up:
- Autumn Nature Walk at Saratoga Spa State Park on Wednesday, October 17th at 3pm. Join them for an easy, one mile hike and learn about trees, fungi, and invasive species in a setting that seems miles removed from the city. Terrain is relatively flat, but sturdy shoes are recommended. All ages welcome. Registration is required. Fee is $3/person and $5/family. Phone: (518) 584-2000 ext 150. Registration is required.
- Turkey Trail Hike (A.L.L.) at Moreau State Park on Wednesday, October 17th from 9:30am-12:30pm. In the beautiful autumn weather, come and enjoy this moderate hike that scales half-way up the Palmertown range and will be led by a Naturalist. Pre-registration is required, please call 793-0511.
- On Friday, October 19 at 4pm is Fall Friday Fun at Camp Saratoga. This week is Nature Journals. Ever wish you had a nice journal to record memories from your hikes? Well, now is your chance to make one! They will have recycled paper, hard covers, and twine to put it all together. Then take it with you on a short hike through the woods! Meet by the Visitor Information Cabin at Parking Lot #1 at Camp Saratoga at 4pm.
- Homeschool Nature at Saratoga Spa State Park on Thursday, October 25th at 11am. Join other homeschoolers for Spa Park’s monthly nature class! Each class focuses on a different aspect of the outdoor world and lasts about an hour and a half. All ages are welcome. Registration is required. Fee is $3/person and $5/family. Phone: (518) 584-2000 ext 150. Registration is required.
- Halloween Nature Crafts for Kids on Wednesday, October 31st at 11am. Join the park naturalist as kids create spooky Halloween crafts from things that they find in nature, such as pine cones, leaves or rocks. Kids are welcome to come in costume if they would like. Registration is required. Fee is $3/person or $5/family. Phone: (518) 584-2000 ext 150.
Take the pledge to Be Out There with your kids. Help the NWF reach their goal of getting 10 million American kids to reap the benefits of the great outdoors.
I’m going to keep you guys posted on the great outdoor activities we have offered here in our community, and I’ll also keep you updated on my struggle with making the Green Hour work. But for now, I’m going to start planning a little scavenger hunt for after school… xoxo