Adventures in Drool: Let them eat dirt
A new report from the National Wildlife Federation extols the virtues of playing outside.
Growing up, I was always outside - making mud pies, dancing in the rain, digging, running, jumping and swimming - but today, many children spend most of their time indoors.
NWF's Be Out There campaign - www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Be-Out-There/Why-Be-Out-There.aspx - says playing inside is taking a toll on our children.
According to the campaign's website, "The negative impact of decreased time outdoors includes a doubling of the childhood obesity rate - accompanied by an incremental hundred billion dollar cost to our health care system - as well as declining creativity, concentration and social skills."
Playing outside encourages children to use their imaginations, but it also makes them use their bodies. They climb, crawl and dig while exploring nature.
Here are some stats:
• Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago.
• Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).
• In a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own.
• Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration.
• Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.
• The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11.
Did you know that digging in the dirt helps kids reduce their risk of allergies, asthma and auto-immune disorders? It also releases seratonin, which is the feel-good hormone, which can help kids feel less stressed, while improving their mood. Who knew dirt was so beneficial!
This all sounds scary, and the idea of getting of getting our kids outside sounds great, but how do we do it?
There are tons of ways to play with kids in the backyard, but it might take you joining them. Kids love to play games, but they often need help getting started, especially if they are used to playing inside.
Here are some ideas for backyard fun:
• Start a children's garden. Plot out a space in the backyard that is just for kids. Let them dig it up and plant seeds to see what grows. Take your kids to the store and let them pick out the seeds. Also get each kid their own trowel and gloves. Then head out back for some dirty fun. See which plants grow the best. Have the kids take turns watering their new plants while they learn about how food grows.
• Build a fort. Probably a safer bet for older kids. Clean out the garage and let the kids use their imaginations to take junk and turn it into a fort or play area. Parents should keep an eye on the kids, but also lend a helping hand if items need to be nailed together. This helps teach kids that they can build, and also teaches cooperation.
• Rainy day fun. In the warmer months, a slight drizzle may send kids inside, but instead host a fun rainy day outdoor activity. Get the kids into old clothes that can be thrown away if necessary. Have hoses, pie tins and shovels and let kids go to town in the mud. Have towels handy inside for when it's time to hose off the kids to come inside. Mud pies are so much fun!
• Create a water course. Hot weather means time for sprinklers. Have the kids help you set up a relay race course using sprinklers, tarps and baby pools. Have them create tasks and races. For example, hop on one foot around the sprinkler, crawl through the baby pool, do a somersault onto the tarp and finish with the moonwalk across the finish line. Have fun with it!
Out and about
If you are in the mood for an adventure, find local wildlife parks or museums that your kids will enjoy. On NatureFind, anyone can type in a town or zip code, and find family activities that get kids and parents out of the house.
Here's one in Georgetown:
• Treasures of the Sea exhibit: Address: Located at Delaware Technical Community College - Seashore Highway - Rt. 18/404, Georgetown, DE 19947. Phone: 302-856-5700. Web: http://www.treasuresofthesea.org/
• Don't forget about Delaware State Parks. They host tons of family activities throughout the year - mostly in the summer months. Address: 130 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971. Phone: 302-227-2800. Web: http://www.destateparks.com/park/delaware-seashore/index.asp.
• Here's one I hope to check out when Droolface is a bit older. It is a bit of a trek, but there are lots of activities in Wilmington at the Delaware Children's Museum. Address: The Big Yellow Building in Riverfront Wilmington: 550 Justison Street, Wilmington, DE 19801. Phone: 302-654-2340. Web: www.delawarechildrensmuseum.org/
And as always, have fun in the kingdom of drool! Have a great week droolers!