A Breath of Fresh Air

Winter is coming…the time of being cooped up the house — at least that’s how it is for us Midwesterners! So this Family Fun tip is probably ill-timed. But I wanted to share a great web site with you: http://www.greenhour.org.

The basic premise here is simple: it’s not good for kids to be cooped up inside, turning into TV-zombies! The National Wildlife Federation has created this site full of great outdoor activities for kids. Below is a bit of their explanation of why this is so important. But before I get to their words, here’s my input.

Not only do kids learn about nature, adventure, and creativity when they play outside, but they can experience God’s presence! Of course God is present with us at all times, indoors and out, but there’s something compelling about the scent of fall leaves on a breeze or the bumbling landing of a ladybug or the canvas of a cloudy sky that draws our hearts away from our busy lives and toward awe of God. It’s great to weave conversations about God into these activities, but even when you don’t I believe they are having a spiritual growth experience.

So here’s a few words from greenhour.org to persuade you a bit more…

About Green Hour

As a society, we are raising the first generation of Americans to grow up disconnected from nature.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the steps that got us here are easily traced, and the way to work toward reversing them is clear.

Most importantly, by giving our children a “Green Hour” a day — a bit of time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world — we can set them on the path toward physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Most adults of a certain age have childhood memories of carefree days spent playing outdoors — climbing, digging, collecting, building, and exploring the natural world around them, at their own pace, in their own way.

Those children of a generation ago are the parents of today, and you might expect such outdoor play to be part of their families’ lifestyle. But today’s overscheduled kids are increasingly “plugged in” to electronic devices and media and unplugged from the fundamental and formative experience of nature in their own neighborhood. Their senses — including, most sadly, their sense of wonder — are bombarded, overwhelmed, and ultimately diminished.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, refers to this nature-child disconnect as “nature deficit disorder.” One of the primary symptoms is the replacement of the green space by the screen space as the occupier of children’s free time. Indeed, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that the average American child spends 44 hours per week (more than 6 hours a day!) staring at some kind of electronic screen. Studies have linked excessive television viewing to obesity, violence, and even lower intelligence in kids. Now, a growing wave of research indicates that children who spend time outdoors are healthier, overall, than their indoor counterparts

Children who regularly spend unstructured time outside:
# Play more creatively
# Have lower stress levels
# Have more active imaginations
# Become fitter and leaner
# Develop stronger immune systems
# Experience fewer symptoms of ADD and ADHD
# Have greater respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment

The National Wildlife Federation recommends that parents give their kids a “Green Hour” every day, a time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world. This can take place in a garden, a backyard, the park down the street, or any place that provides safe and accessible green spaces where children can learn and play.

To give parents and caregivers the information, tools, and inspiration to get their kids — and themselves — outside, NWF has created GREENHOUR.ORG, a website rich in family-friendly content and which hosts a supportive virtual community where families can learn, explore, and share their outdoor experiences and backyard adventures.

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One response to “A Breath of Fresh Air

  1. What a great idea and site! I know my Sister In Law kicks the older kids (6 & 5) outside for an hour of play time a day…I’ve been waiting for Will to get a bit older to be able to play by himself a bit better out there before I started it…I think he needs a bit more “guided” time out there though. I love the ideas of things to do together! (Because honestly, I get tired of pushing them on the swings AGAIN.) Thank you for the link!

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