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
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