As summer draws to a close, both parents and kids alike mourn the end of long days full of play and free of schedules. This shift from carefree summer days to school days has become even more distressing, as research shows that kids spend more time inside now than ever before. This detachment from the outdoors is causing what Richard Louv coined in his book, Last Child in the Woods, as "nature deficit disorder," resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems such as anxiety, attention deficit disorders and depression. Childhood obesity is also shockingly on the rise, and is in no doubt a direct correlation.
So what is causing this great indoor migration? For one, parent's growing fear of "stranger danger", fueled by the media, keeps kids under constant supervision, not allowing for the spontaneous, unstructured play outdoors that experts say is so vital to childhood development. Secondly, the increased lure of gadgets, computers and television is often too enticing for kids to resist. And finally, a loss of natural surroundings in our neighborhoods and cities has forced many children indoors.
With some guidance and encouragement, your kids can find their way back to nature. There are several great resources for kids on the web on where to go, what to do and what to see in outdoors.
The US Forest Service has created a website that encourages kids to "discover themselves" in nature. Kids visiting the site can search for places to bike, swim, fish, hike and go camping in their area. They can also discover some cool tricks to use in the great outdoors, like how to use a compass or track animals. Visit discovertheforest.org
The National Wildlife Federation has a great site for families that encourages children to spend one Green Hour outside a day. That's not asking much, considering the average American child spends 44 hours a week with electronic media. The site provides great tips and activities to do with kids during their "green hour." Visit greenhour.org
Discover the Forest