Yesterday was the fall equinox and also the start of Take Your Child Outside Week. I honestly had never heard of this week until I was talking with my colleague and friend, who mentioned that there's an entire week devoted to trying to expose kids to exercise, the outdoors, and activities that would get them off the couch and out into the fresh air--and that our very state initiated this a year ago.
What a great idea! I thought to myself (and said out loud, actually). It's no secret that childhood obesity rates are soaring, and that my state actually has numbers that are alarmingly high. I think much of this is because kids just aren't getting outside. Not only is their health at risk as a result, but they're losing the ability to connect with the natural world, and to develop an awareness of environmental issues that will particularly affect their generation in the years to come. I think we all probably remember that, in our own childhoods, we spent a great deal of time outside. I know I did. We didn't have a "playroom" or tons of toys, and the backyard was a magical and wild place, with perfect trees to climb, and lots of thick ivy to play in. When we went to Greece to visit our grandparents, we certainly hardly ever played inside. Most kids in Greece spend a huge amount of time outdoors. Apartment living is the norm there, and there just isn't the space for kids to run around and burn off energy inside. We'd play late games of hide and seek, where practically the whole neighborhood was our playground.
Because times have changed, a lot of kids just aren't spending much of their day outside--even on the weekends. And we parents have gotten lazier, too--I'm the first to admit this. It's easy to direct the kids into some indoor activity so we can do one more load of laundry, or get a head start on dinner, or tackle one more household chore. Watching the kids play outside is more work, I think, but also less work in a crazy way, because there is more for them to do. Most kids need both kinds of play: focused, more internally directed play (the kind they get indoors from games, puzzles, drawing, crafts, etc.) and wider, less focused play (the kind kids get when they run across the yard, or climb trees, or swing from a tire swing and shout to the sky).
We've avoided our backyard for about four solid months now. It's wooded, with a creek running through the bottom of it, and all that translates into tons of mosquitoes, poison ivy, and ticks, of course. Even the dog has gotten lazy and insists on carrying out her bathroom business in the flower bed by the back porch steps (lovely). So with the fall equinox and the start of some cooler temperatures, I told the kids we'd play outside each day this week. I let them vote on what activities they wanted to do, and both unanimously said they wanted to play on the tire swing yesterday. This afternoon we'll collect acorns and make dolls and tea sets (T.) and crazy space vehicles (L.). Tomorrow? Who knows...but we'll be outside, scratching skeeter bites and shouting to the sky.
I'd love to hear what outdoor activities you're doing this week with your kiddos. Also, for suggestions of activities you can go here, and follow links for some great suggestions.