Sometimes getting your kids outside and close to nature is a hassle, especially in a world brimming with the latest iPhones, computers and Kindle devices.
Every day, children are spending more time watching some sort of screen, while negatively impacting their health and social skills
According to a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average American child between the ages of 8 and 18 spends an average of 53 hours per week, or 7 hours and 38 minutes a day, staring at an electronic screen. The study also found a correlation between childhood obesity and media.
Overall, the report found a dramatic increase in the amount of time youth spent with entertainment media. Last year, a report by Common Sense Media found that 52 percent of children between the ages of o and 8 have access to a media device at home.
Long gone are the days of playing cops and robbers in the backyard, and getting dirt under your fingers until mom called you home for dinner. Most of today’s children spend more time behind the screen than enjoying the outdoors.
Getting them outside can be hard and is usually accompanied with the sounds of protest and dissention, and swiftly followed by tears and pleas for more time to play. However, it doesn’t have to be so difficult.
Here are some activities to help you get one foot out the door without any tears or yelling:
Let’s start with one that combines technology with the great outdoors—geocaching. Simply put, the game is a treasure hunt where players use GPS devices to look for containers hidden in a natural setting. The game is a trifecta meaning it’s techy, adventurous and fun. , to read a previous piece about the game.
Don’t want to shell out $70 for a GPS for the tyke? No worries, there are plenty of activities that are a bit more organic and crafty. Make a game out of collecting leafs and small branches from the backyard, or shells from the beach, and use them to create memorable artworks. The National Wildlife Federation has a great list of craft activities listed on their site, which include everything from making dandelion necklaces to fairy houses out of rocks.
Another great way to get the kids out is by organizing a camping trip. Invite friends and relatives to join for the mother of all play dates. Bring an extra tent for the toddlers so they can play house and have something to destroy, plus if it rains it helps to keep the mud out of the main tent.
Bring a check list and identify native flora. It’s an opportunity for parents to learn, too. My son, who is only 3-years-old, can already identify several plants by their names.
For a local spot to take the kids try out Arcadia Wilderness Park located at the end of Highland Oaks Drive. The park provides a family-friendly wilderness setting ideal for a plethora of outdoor games and activities.
Also, there is a small pond and a nature center with animals on display. Click here, for directions and hours of operation.
For other locations try the Nature Rocks website, which has a map feature that recommends locations based on the age of a child and how much free time a parent can fit in their schedule.