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Have you been outside lately?

In today’s world, we are always on the go: to and from work, taking the kids to school, soccer practice or club meetings, etc. We find ourselves so busy, that it seems we can barely find time to breathe. If we do find this time, we often head straight to the couch, tune out the world, and tune into our favorite TV show. But have you thought about taking some time to breathe outside? If not, Take A Child Outside Week might be the motivation you and your kid, grandkid, niece or nephew need.

Take a Child Outside Week is an annual program facilitated through online networks encouraging anyone and everyone (but specifically children) to get outside and explore! It is a great excuse to plan that trip to the park you have been planning to go to, but haven’t found the time to do it. There is a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities; from hiking to fishing, kayaking to bird watching, geocaching and more! Perhaps you are more of the creative type and would enjoy time outside to paint, draw or sketch? The options are endless, but you just have to take the time to do it.

boy looking through binoculars

Need even more motivation?

Studies have shown that the amount of time children spend outside has significantly decreased over past years and the amount of time they are spending playing video games or watching TV has done just the opposite. For example, the average American child spends 44 hours per week (more than 6 hours a day!) staring at some kind of electronic screen. Yes, you read that correctly…44 HOURS! And I am sure you have heard about childhood obesity; rates have more than doubled in the last 20 years, and on top of that, the United States has become the largest consumer of ADHD medications in the world (Source). The list goes on, but this is a reality we face in a technology-dependent world.

Why is this so? A lack of a connection to the natural world. If I were to stop typing this blog right now and look around my office, there is not one thing I can see/think of that did not rely on natural resources to be produced. This is very easy to forget because as consumers, we are very disconnected from the origin of the products we purchase and the process in which they were created.

The point is not to depress you, but to encourage you to spend some time outside. Many studies have shown the tremendous amount of benefits we receive as we spend time outdoors. Take these statistics from the National Wildlife Federation website:

  • Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies – a great way to fight obesity.
  • Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.
  • Being outside improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness.
  • Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
  • Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening.
  • Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.
  • Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
  • Play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.
  • Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships.

diverse-children-playing-outside

The main goal of the Take A Child Outside Week program is to break down any barriers kids may have for exploring the natural environment. There are many resources in Pinellas County to help parents, teachers and other caregivers explore the outdoors. Going outside can help to build a connection to our natural resources and hopefully develop a better understanding and appreciation of the environment, ultimately inspiring people to sustain natural areas for generations to come!

Plan your trip to a local park or preserve today: http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/