If you are reading this, odds are that you care deeply about children. You probably have fond memories of playing outdoors as a child – exploring the neighborhood with friends, building forts and letting your imagination take you to exotic worlds. You probably would like to see your children and grandchildren have the experiences that brought joy and wonder to your own childhood. And, you’ve probably noticed that this way of life has all but disappeared from the lives of today’s children because of safety concerns, reduced access to nearby play spaces, overly structured lives and the appeal of electronic media. As a result, we are seeing children with unprecedented levels of physical health problems like obesity, poor muscle development and near-sightedness, as well as reduced cognitive development and socio/emotional problems. The good news is that we are reversing this trend and you can help! Whether you are a parent or grandparent, a teacher or politician, or even just a neighbor, you can give a child the gift of outdoor play. How? Here are a few ideas:
- Limit screen time! The average American child spends 7 hours a day plugged into electronic media. The AAP recommends no more than two hours a day, and none for children under the age of two.
- Give kids ideas for outdoor activities to get them started, but be careful not to hover. They will derive the greatest benefit from self-directed, creative play.
- Make sure that your own backyard is child-friendly.
- Take a child to the park, nature center or zoo.
- Send a child to camp.
- Understand the problem and talk about it with others – family, friends, teachers, neighbors, church and co-workers.
- Encourage a school, pre-school or church to build a nature playscape, school garden or outdoor classroom, then volunteer and/or help fund that effort.
- Make others aware of the resources available on our website.
- Advocate – be a voice for the right of a child to play in a healthy environment.
- Support parks, nature enters, camps and other organization that are connecting children with nature by volunteering and donating.
Are you a grandparent? Congratulations! Check out Grand Ideas for fun ways that you can build a closer relationship with your grandchild while connecting them with nature.