Friday, April 16, 2010

Let's Get our Children outdoors again

Here in Ashland, Oregon, I live in a town where people are very active, where wild places are just a short ride away, and where children have plenty of outdoor spaces to play. Because of this, most of the children in this town are fit and healthy and they are environmentally aware because they have nature all around them.

Unfortunately many children don't live in places where they can easily splash in a stream or hike up a trail. I was recently in New York City, and though there are many parks in the city ( including lovely Central Park) these spaces are often far away from a child's home. Many children in big cities simply don't have easy access to big school grounds and parks, grass to roll on, bike paths to ride on. If they want to play outdoors parents and caregivers have to plan an outing. For the week of April 19 through 25 (National TV Turnoff Week) consider turning off your T.V and make plans to got to a park, to ride a bike, or to plant some flowers in flower pots for a window sill or a patio. National TV Turnoff Week ties in beautifully with Earth Day, which is on April 22nd. Celebrate this day by helping your children get back in touch with the natural world all week long. 
Worried that "childhood play [has] officially moved indoors," the people at American Girl have decided to address the problem in their own way. They have released a new doll, Lanie, who is "a thoughtful, energetic girl who discovers the world in her own backyard." There is "convincing research [that] shows that today’s children spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation, leading to inactivity and increases in childhood obesity, attention deficit disorders, and even depression." The hope is that playing with Lanie and reading her stories in the Lanie books will encourage youngsters to see that there is a whole world of fun to be found outside.  "Written by acclaimed author Jane Kurtz, the Lanie books—Lanie and Lanie’s Real Adventures—introduce readers to ten-year-old Lanie Holland. Lanie loves wildlife and the outdoors, but her family prefers to do things at home—and inside. When Lanie’s adventurous and outdoorsy aunt comes to stay with them, Lanie finds a kindred spirit and learns to connect with the natural world around her. Through everyday experiences—growing a garden, bird-watching, camping in her backyard, and creating a butterfly habitat—Lanie discovers how everything in nature is connected and learns there’s a wide, wonderful world right outside her door. To further engage readers, a section at the back of each book includes letters from real girls who, like Lanie, are looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors."

In addition to bringing out the Lanie doll, American Girl is supporting the National Wildlife Foundation Be Out There program. This program encourages children to get outdoors, to get active, and to connect with nature on a meaningful level.

If National TV Turnoff Week is rainy or cold in your area, you can always turn to books. Sylvan Dell Publishing has a gift for you for this special week. They are inviting readers to read some free e-books on their website. Take a look here to see what they are offering.

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