If you are reading this, odds are that you care deeply about children. You probably have fond memories of playing outdoors as a child – exploring the neighborhood with friends, building forts and letting your imagination take you to exotic worlds. You probably would like to see your children and grandchildren have the experiences that brought joy and wonder to your own childhood. And, you’ve probably noticed that this way of life has all but disappeared from the lives of today’s children because of safety concerns, reduced access to nearby play spaces, overly structured lives and the appeal of electronic media. As a result, we are seeing children with unprecedented levels of physical health problems like obesity, poor muscle development and near-sightedness, as well as reduced cognitive development and socio/emotional problems. The good news is that we are reversing this trend and you can help! Whether you are a parent or grandparent, a teacher or politician, or even just a neighbor, you can give a child the gift of outdoor play. How? Here are a few ideas:
- Limit screen time! The average American child spends 7 hours a day plugged into electronic media. The AAP recommends no more than two hours a day, and none for children under the age of two.
- Give kids ideas for outdoor activities to get them started, but be careful not to hover. They will derive the greatest benefit from self-directed, creative play.
- Make sure that your own backyard is child-friendly.
- Take a child to the park, nature center or zoo.
- Send a child to camp.
- Understand the problem and talk about it with others – family, friends, teachers, neighbors, church and co-workers.
- Encourage a school, pre-school or church to build a nature playscape, school garden or outdoor classroom, then volunteer and/or help fund that effort.
- Make others aware of the resources available on our website.
- Advocate – be a voice for the right of a child to play in a healthy environment.
- Support parks, nature enters, camps and other organization that are connecting children with nature by volunteering and donating.
Are you a grandparent? Congratulations! Check out Grand Ideas for fun ways that you can build a closer relationship with your grandchild while connecting them with nature.
Reflecting on the successes of the prior year is always a great way to start the new one. Last year saw continued progress in the movement to reconnect children with nature – here, nationally and internationally. We hope you will read full details in our 2013 Annual Report, but local highlights include the addition of helpful resources for families and educators with the launch of Green Umbrella’s Meet Me Outdoors website and our own School Program Finder. Nationally, the expansion of the Children & Nature Network to C&NN Worldwide was a milestone, and the American Public Health Association’s release of a policy statement recommending that health professionals promote spending time in nature was an indicator of how successful the movement has been in influencing policy. Please join us in making 2014 a year of continued success by sharing our message with others wherever you live, learn, work and play.
Green Umbrella’s Outdoor Adventure Club
Savvy parents know that outdoor play makes kids happier, healthier and smarter, but sometimes struggle to find fresh activity ideas, especially in the winter. If you are looking for inspiration, check out Nature Rocks! The Nature Conservancy partnered with Disney, the Children & Nature Network and EcoAmerica to produce a resource that will inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature, including your own backyard. And don’t forget, whenever you are looking for local places to go, events and programs, check out Green Umbrella’s Meet Me Outdoors website.
SCHOOL PROGRAM FINDER: Free Resource for Teachers
LNCIgc’s new School Program Finder is a one-stop shop for anyone looking for school and after-school nature-based or environmental education outreach programs, field trips and camps. The School Program Finder lists dozens of local programs and allows you to search by topic, grade level, cost and more. We encourage you to conduct your school and after-school programs outside whenever possible! If you’d like help “greening” your school grounds or connecting with nearby nature for outdoor education, please contact us – we would love to help.
THREE GREAT IDEAS FOR TEACHERS
You Can Get Your Students Outside – and Still Meet Your State Standards: Michelle Aldenderfer-Griffen gives easy-to-do, low- or no-cost tips that anyone can do in her practical blog.
10 Ways You Can Add Vitamin N to Your Classroom and Beyond: Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and The Nature Principle, suggests ways in which teachers can help connect their students with nature. One of his suggestions is training for teachers who may feel inadequately trained to give students an outdoor experience. We can coordinate teacher training for schools in the Greater Cincinnati area. Please contact us for more information.
Where Nature Meets Story has a reading list for children of all ages with coordinating, outdoor activities.
Granny’s Garden School – Loveland, Ohio
Denny McFadden is a retired teacher whose dream was to introduce urban youth to the great outdoors. “For many years while teaching in the Cincinnati Public School district, I facilitated annual team building canoe trips for students and fellow teachers. During those outdoor adventures, I witnessed a number of amazing things happen among our students and staff. Lots of kids and adults who had never paddled a canoe struggled mightily. Some became increasingly frustrated and discouraged as they tried to keep their boats upright and pointed downstream. Eventually, however, the skills of each and every paddler improved, and as we progressed downstream, the more capable and confident everyone became. By the trip’s end, they had conquered their fear of the unknown. As the students and staff exited the river at our designated take-out, their expressions and exclamations said it all. They had grown as individuals and as a group – in so many ways!!!”
Denny witnessed first-hand the multiple ways in which outdoor activities in nature benefitted his students, and wanted to give low income, disadvantaged teens living in urban area the opportunity to experience hiking, biking, paddling and other activities. He also recognized that these activities can help build leadership skills. So, after his retirement, Denny launched a pilot Outdoor Adventure Club program at three area high schools: Withrow, West High and Woodward. In addition to taking part in outdoor adventures during the school year, Club members will be engaged throughout the summer as volunteers for local outdoor recreational events like Paddlefest, as paid interns working outdoors in city and county parks, and as facilitators for their schools’ Summer Bridge outdoor enrichment programs. Thanks to support from Activities Beyond the Classroom, GEARUP, GRAD Cincinnati, Green Umbrella, FamiliesFORWARD and the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, the pilot launched earlier this year at its capacity of 45 students.
Thank you, Denny, for your vision and for being on the “front line” in the movement to reconnect children with nature!
Enter the CLIF Kid Backyard Game contest as an individual or a group and win $15,000 for your favorite non-profit, a $10,000 scholarship or other prizes! Need a little inspiration? Check out last year’s winners.
Great news!!!! Now you can see all of Greater Cincinnati’s outdoor events and programs on one convenient website. MeetMeOutdoors.com allows you to search for outdoor fun by activity and date. The site, sponsored by Green Umbrella, features not only upcoming special events, but also on-going programs in our region. It also contains a map of area destinations and retailers that supply outdoor gear. What a great resource for families throughout our region! Take a look and Meet Me Outdoors!
Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati was founded in order to educate the community that time spent in nature is essential to the physical, mental and emotional health of all children. Because obesity is one of the most pressing issues facing the health community today (26% of children between the ages of 2-5 are overweight or obese, and that number leaps to 33% in school age children), it’s easy to lose sight of other issues related to the relatively recent disappearance of unstructured play in nature.
With the near extinction of that experience, we are seeing unprecedented levels of stress-related illnesses in children. In a recent post, pediatrician Larry Rosen, MD calls on all of us to do what we can to restore nature free-play to the childhood experience. In another post, Mary Brown, MD discusses the negative academic and health impacts of stress on the developing brain and why the American Academy of Pediatrics is looking to nature play as a way to prevent or lessen “the lifelong effects of a stressful childhood, including depression, obesity, behavior problems, drug use and risk-taking behavior.”
This is a problem we can fix!
Some of the solutions are easy, some are not, but we can all play a part in reconnecting children with nature. We encourage each and every one of you to stay informed and help spread the word about this important issue. If you’d like to get involved more formally, please contact us.
Research shows that spending time in nature makes kids happier, healthier and smarter. Reading is probably the single most important skill for achievement in school and success in life. So, why not combine the two?
The Children & Nature Network’s Where Nature Meets Story is a place for parents and educators to find fun, outdoor activities for kids with a coordinated recommended reading list for toddlers to young adults.
Explore a wide range of activity themes, including “A Fort of One’s Own: Making Hide-outs” and “Of Fairies, Gnomes and Hobbits: Imagined Worlds in Nature”. Check it out and start your child down the path to a happier, healthier and smarter life.
Spring is here and that means families will be on the look-out for fun things to do in Greater Cincinnati. For activities at area parks, nature centers and other outdoor venues, including your own home, check out these on-line resources:
Green Umbrella: A calendar of regional programs and events from hiking to green energy symposiums. Stay tuned for the introduction of Green Umbrella’s special outdoor activity site, MeetMeOutdoors.com, coming soon!
Grow Outside Guide to Outdoor Play: Includes activities to do at home or in your neighborhood, like how to create a Child Friendly Backyard and Fun for All Seasons ideas for kids.
- Tri-State Guide to the Outdoors: Top local places to participate in a plethora of outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, kayaking and camping.