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Posted in Family and Friends, Healthy Living | August 2013

Go outside and play!

children and nature
In his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, journalist Richard Louv coined the phrase, “nature deficit disorder”. He cautioned that cutting children off from nature was linked to rising rates of obesity, depression and attention deficit disorder.

There is a wonderful world out there for kids to explore, and it doesn’t take too much effort to convince a child that fun, exciting and amazing new experiences are actually a good thing! What steps can you take to encourage your children or grandchildren to get off the couch and head out into the great outdoors?

  • Set a good example by being interested in nature yourself. Go outside for walks around the neighborhood, take hikes in the woods, visit a conservation area or national park, go to garden centers or zoos—have new experiences together and give nature a starring role in your family fun!
  • Encourage them to read stories and magazines about nature, wild places and outdoor adventures. This may inspire a desire to explore the world beyond the front door! Classics like The Call of the Wild, The Swiss Family Robinson, or The Secret Garden may be a good place to start, depending upon the age of your child. Check the library for back issues of children’s science and nature magazines like National Geographic Kids or Canada’s OWL Magazine.
  • Give kids the tools they need to explore. Gardening gloves and seeds, maps, binoculars, bug catchers, note pads, bird and mammal field guides, and even inexpensive cameras—whatever it takes to make exploration more enticing!
  • Organize a backyard scavenger hunt. Have your child find specific plants or trees; identify common birds; do a leaf rubbing; bring back rocks, pinecones or a wildflower; or list items they’ve seen in a certain color or shape. For more scavenger hunt ideas and inspiration visit Love the Outdoors.
  • Check out National Wildlife Federation’s searchable activity finder designed to help kids get the most out of their play outdoors. It allows you to search for activity ideas based on your child’s age, your available time and cost. You’ll find cool ideas like keeping a moon journal, building an outdoor fort and setting up an outdoor homework station!
  • Help out at a Foresters playground build with your kids. At Foresters we’re committed to enhancing the well-being of families. Our partnership with KaBOOM!, which envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child, helps us make a difference in the lives of children and their families. Visit MyForesters.com to find out about playground builds in your area.

Even if all you do is take your children to a neighborhood playground for some active, outdoor fun with friends and family every day, you’ll be doing them a world of good.

For more inspiring ways to get kids interested in the great outdoors, visit The Nature Conservancy .

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