There is a wealth of programs and ideas - Last Child in the Woods, No Child Left Indoors, No Child Left on the Couch - aimed at inspiring today’s youth to get off the couch, away from video games, and into nature – and for good reason. Today’s average child spends 44 hours per week staring at some kind of electronic screen. These same children are less fit and have less stamina then children of past generations. Obesity is an enormous problem among Americans, including children. The rate of obesity in children aged 6 to 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years, to 17 percent. For ages 12 to 19 the rate of clinical obesity has more than tripled to 17.6 percent. These statistics are from a 2009 National Wildlife Federation publication, Time Out: Using the Outdoors to Enhance Classroom Performance.
Now let’s take a look at the numerous benefits of being outdoors. Children who play outside are more creative; they explore nature and use their imagination to come up with games and role-plays rather than let technology do the “work” for them. Being outdoors allows children to be more physically active, enhances their ability to learn and retain knowledge. In a nutshell, free play outdoors improves children’s mental and physical health.
Another added bonus is that spending time outdoors helps children develop conservation ethics. I grew up four-wheeling across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, swimming in alpine lakes, and climbing on granite boulders. These experiences shaped who I am today and sparked my passion for enjoying and conserving the great outdoors. Everyone needs that connection to nature for personal benefits and for Mother Nature’s benefits.
Here are a few ideas to help get you and your family off the couch and into the great outdoors: