Tuesday, June 18, 2013

National Wildlife Federation and #BeOutThere summer project

When I was young, in elementary school a tornado blew through my small hometown in northwest Indiana. We were spared any severe damage to our home, but a tiny tree-filled uninhabited lot, surrounded by many homes was demolished. The wind tore up the trees leaving them in a shamble in the center of uncut weeds and grass. The neighborhood kids took this as a sign to create forts and climb the trees, nestling ourselves amidst the tangled branches, staking claims on certain sections to make our own. Sort of a make-shift Lord of the Flies on a dead-end street in the 1980's, without all the fighting and such. But one day, the city came in and took all the trees away, leaving us with an empty, grassy lot. It just wasn't the same, but we found our fun. Lots of it, all summer long.

And now, as a parent I try to get my kids outside as much as I can. I'm a stinker when it's too hot outside, but the new big kid pool and swing set helps me lure my kids away from the video games and tv, giving us the opportunity to enjoy our own backyard, and soak up some vitamin D from the sun. I try to give them creative ways to play in the backyard, but truthfully, my favorite times are when they create a game on their own and spend hours enjoying each other while having fun.

The National Wildlife Federation wants to get kids outside to play too! They want you to "Be Out There" by getting parents to pledge to spend time outside, and as a whole for all of us to get 10 million kids outside, running and playing this summer.

The whole concept behind the Be Out There campaign is something I hold near and dear to my heart. Here is a list on Fast Facts I found on the NWF site that really inspired me and opened my eyes to just how different today's children's summers are compared to mine of many years ago.

Fast Facts About Outdoor Time and Children

  • Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. (Juster et al 2004); (Burdette & Whitaker 2005); (Kuo & Sullivan 2001)
  • 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). (Kaiser Family Foundation)
  • In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. (Children & Nature Network, 2008)
  • Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration. (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005; Ginsburg et al., 2007)
  • Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008)
  • The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11. (Wells and Lekies, 2006)

My kids won't be riding their bikes off until the street lights come on, and they won't be walking or riding their bikes to school like I did, but that doesn't mean we can't incorporate free play and outdoor time into our daily summer schedules.

For example, the research for my recent post about Nature Based Outdoor Play inspired me to get my hands on some "Tree Cookies". My step-dad was on a trip down to his hunt club and they were cutting down some trees. I asked if he could make up a few of these for us and the kids have had a ball playing with them. Making up games and activities out of them really stretches their brains and forces them to be creative, which i LOVE.

This summer, the NWF will be publishing an e-book pertaining to the Be Out There campaign and I was asked to be a contributing author. I couldn't be more excited!


So my question to you is, what are your favorite ways to get your kids outside to play? What entices them to put down the controller and have some fun in the sun?

*This is a sponsored post. All words are my own. 
This post is part of a compensated 
project from The Motherhood and NWF.*

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