A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study revealed that US children spend an average of 6.5 hours of their “free time” each day inside using electronic media: computers, video games, television and MP3 players. They are also becoming increasingly disconnected from nature. Their sedentary pursuits contribute to higher numbers of children with childhood obesity, high blood pressure, attention deficit diagnoses and more.
To reverse this “nature deficit”, The National Wild Life Federation and Wild Birds Unlimited are encouraging a “Green Hour” – – at least one hour of unstructured outdoor play daily when children can practice skills like gardening, observing, and how to experiment in the physical world. Other studies show that while children’s imaginations are soaring during active play their stress levels drop, they become fitter and leaner, and their immune systems grow stronger.
The green hour can take place in any green space where they can safely explore and learn — their own backyard, a park. nature trails or a walk through the neighborhood. Here are some sample activities but check www.greenhour.org for more suggestions: Take a nature photo safari, camp out in the back yard, put up a bird feeder, stay up late and look at the stars, go on a bug walk,or a nature scavenger hunt. The conversation, and emotional bonding between you and your child as you explore will make a difference in behavior, grades and tired children sleep better at night.
Get going and get outside!