We already know that playing outdoors is good for kids for many reasons, but unfortunately not all children get to have regular experiences in nature today. As adults we’re effectively children’s gatekeepers to nature, and before they’re old enough to take off on their own it’s up to us to get them out there.
Here’s what you can do to help:
- Don’t wait around for an outdoor program to start in your area – be part of the change by banding together with other parents and grandparents and create a family nature club. Each nature club is unique but they all have the same purpose: to get families outdoors and experiencing nature on a regular basis. A lot of clubs meet at a certain day and time once a week, others meet less frequently. The members decide what to do and activities range from going on nature walks and trail hikes to meeting up for outdoor play and picnics in city parks. You can search the Children and Nature Network’s directory to see if there are any existing nature clubs in your area. If not, download this tool kit to get started.
- Encourage your child’s school or preschool to create an outdoor classroom. An outdoor classroom is a space where children can explore traditional subjects in a natural setting. Pretty much anything that can be taught inside can be taught outside, including science, reading, math, English, art, PE and more! There are many benefits of learning in an outdoor classroom; for one children tend to retain information better when they learn hands on, and being outside helps improve their ability to concentrate. Start by contacting the non-profit organization Nature Explore, which has a lot of resources and has designed outdoor classrooms at schools across the country.
- Support the expansion of the National Park Trust’s youth programs Kids to Parks Day and the Buddy Bison school program by donating $5 or more as part of the National Park Services Centennial Challenge Project. This challenge will allow NPT to provide several park experiences, including at least one national park unit, for at risk and low income children at up to 60 schools. NPS will match all donations dollar for dollar, so each $5 donation will add up to $10 – just enough to cover the cost of getting one child to a park. Click here to donate. The Centennial Challenge Project coincides with the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which provides a free national parks pass for all fourth graders in the U.S. for the 2015-2016 school year! The pass is valid for all national parks, wildlife refuges and national forests – if you have a fourth grader, don’t miss out on this opportunity to see our public lands for free.
Disclaimer: I was invited by National Park Trust to participate in their Centennial Challenge Campaign, however the views expressed are my own.