Resources for getting your kids outdoors

As a recovering print journalist, one reason I prefer an online existence is it provides more opportunity to share information, primarily through links. Rather than give a short, perhaps unfulfilling definition of a concept I can provide that short definition, then link to a site where, if you chose, you can learn your fill (but then return the rest of my story).

Today, I have a story appearing in both The News & Observer in Raleigh and the Charlotte Observer about getting your kids to play outside more often. Back in my generation ago, kids were kicked out the back door after breakfast and not expected to return until dinner. And we liked it. Today, even if kids can be pried from their beloved joystick and cajoled into venturing out, parents are reluctant to let them wander beyond their eyesight. It’s a situation that has lead to a host of problems, from an increasingly inactive and obese American youth to kids deprived of the innovative play inherent to exploring the great outdoors and vital for developing a creative mind.

Read today’s story in either the N&O or Charlotte Observer (or check back here tomorrow when it will appear in full in this space), which shows how a parent, a teacher and a park have encouraged kids to take it outside. Then return here for additional information in the form of links to sites that will explain everything from why it’s important for out kids to play outdoors to the benefits they derive from it. (A big thanks to  Michael Kirschman, Division Director of Nature Preserves & Natural Resources for the Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation department for help in compiling this list.) That’s followed by some disturbing facts.

Here’s where you can find a vault of information on why playing outside is important for kids:

The Children & Nature Network “Building a Movement to Reconnect Children and Nature” is the mission of this site, established to collect and distribute information between researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being. “C&NN also promotes fundamental institutional change and provides resources for sharing information, strategic initiatives and success stories.” Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” which sparked the get-kids-back-outside-where-they-need-to-be is chairman and co-founder.

US Play Coalition
A unit of Clemson University’s College of Health, Education and Human Development, the coalition is made up of anyone — from parks and rec directors to health officials to concerned individuals — interested in getting kids up and playing. Their focus isn’t entirely outdoors, but their very mission calls for a goodly amount of outdoor play.

Nature Grounds The focus of this non-profit is to make nature a more integral part of playgrounds. Encourages playgrounds less reliant on standard playground equipment and more focused on natural elements that let kids create their own adventures, as is the case with The Nature Explorer Zone at Reedy Creek Nature Center in Charlotte.

Green Hearts: Institute for Nature in Childhood Another non-profit founded to get kids back outside. Founded by Ken Finch, a former vice president of the National Audubon Society.

Richard Louv’s Web site Richard Louv wrote the book on why kids need to play outdoors; it’s called “Last Child in the Woods” and it makes a compelling case, even if you’re an avowed shut-in.

Disturbing facts

Compelling facts about kids and outdoor play (culled from “Nature Play Factoids,” produced by Green Hearts: Institute for Nature in Childhood).

  • In a study of 830 mothers, 70 percent reported playing outdoors every day when they were young, compared with only 31 percent of their children.
  • 85 percent of these mothers identified their child’s television viewing and computer game playing as the number one reason for the lack of outdoor play. 82 percent of them identified crime and safety concerns as factors that prevent their children from playing outdoors.

Source: An Investigation of the Status of Outdoor Play, Rhonda Clements, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Vol. 5, Number 1, 2004

* * *

  • In a study of 830 mothers, 70 percent reported playing outdoors every day when they were
    young, compared with only 31 percent of their children.
  • 85 percent of these mothers identified their child’s television viewing and computer game playing as the number one reason for the lack of outdoor play. 82 percent of them identified crime and safety concerns as factors that prevent their children from playing outdoors.

Source: An Investigation of the Status of Outdoor Play, Rhonda Clements, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Vol. 5, Number 1, 2004

* * *

  • Children aged 8 to 10 spend an average of 6 hours a day watching television, playing video games, using computers, and listening to audio media (and that’s during the school year — no study has been done on vacation habits, but TV ratings show that kids watch more television during the summer).
  • A child is six times more likely to play a video game on a typical day than to ride a bike.

Source: Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cited in USA Today, July 12, 2005

* * *

  • Children aged 8 to 10 spend an average of 6 hours a day watching television, playing video games, using computers, and listening to audio media (and that’s during the school year — no study has been done on vacation habits, but TV ratings show that kids watch more television during the summer).
  • A child is six times more likely to play a video game on a typical day than to ride a bike.

Source: Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cited in USA Today, July 12, 2005

* * *

  • The average American two-year-old spends over four hours per day with television or
    computers.
  • More than 80 percent of children under age 2, and more than 60% of children aged 2 to 5, do
    not have access to daily outdoor play.
  • Unstructured outdoor activities declined by 50% compared to the previous generation

Source: Playing for Keeps (a nonprofit organization devoted to advancing constructive play).

* * *

  • One-half of all North American and South American children will be overweight by 2010.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity

* * *
Violent victimization of children has dropped by more than 38 percent since 1975.

Source: Duke University 2005 Child Well Being Index (cited by R. Louv in Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder)

* * *

  • In one generation, the percentage of people who reported that the outdoors was the most influential environment of their childhood dropped from 96 percent to 46 percent.

Source: The Landscapes of Childhood — The Reflection of Childhood’s Environment in Adult Memories and in Children’s Attitudes, Rachel Sebba, in Environment and Behavior, Volume 23, No. 4, 1991

* * *

  • In one generation, the percentage of people who reported that the outdoors was the
    most influential environment of their childhood dropped from 96 percent to 46 percent.

Source: The Landscapes of Childhood — The Reflection of Childhood’s Environment in Adult Memories and in Children’s Attitudes, Rachel Sebba, in Environment and Behavior, Volume 23, No. 4, 1991

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