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.
Looking for family fun this winter? Green Umbrella will be expanding its website to include a Meet Me Outdoors calendar of events and programs in our region. But, while that is getting underway, you can see a list of some of the activities going on in December, February and March here. We can’t wait for the new Meet Me Outdoors calendar!
In response to the growing body of evidence presented in Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, there is wide-spread recognition that children benefit in a variety of ways from unstructured play in a natural setting – not just physically, but also in terms of cognitive development, mental health and social development. This awareness has led to the development of Nature Playscapes, intended to allow groups of children to experience the natural world, as it has been experienced by generations before them, in a safe, public setting. In Cincinnati, we have what is perhaps the foremost example in the country of a Nature Playscape at the Cincinnati Nature Center. Here, children are allowed to play “with nature”, not just “in nature”, resulting in joyful exploration, discovery, creative play and social interaction. As a result, children tend to spend more time in physical activity while learning valuable skills in the process. Leave No Child Inside, through our community outreach efforts, is working to raise awareness of these spaces, encouraging schools and child care centers throughout our region to incorporate them into their facilities. You can help us spread the word! Learn more about the benefits of Nature Playscapes and make your own child’s school or care center aware of them. A video produced by our counterparts in Central Ohio explains clearly the advantages of natural play:
GIVING TREE TO SUPPORT OUTDOOR PROGRAMS AT LOCAL SCHOOLS
This holiday season, participate in REI’s Giving Tree Project to help underserved children become happier, healthier and smarter by experiencing the wonder of nature. Your gift of new or gentlyused items will help students from the following Cincinnati Public Schools: Roberts Academy, The Academy of World Languages and Pleasant Ridge Montessori. Pick up a flier at the store to see the “wish list” of items, which includes items like binoculars for birdwatching and rain ponchos.
LET LOCAL SCHOOLS DO YOUR GIFT WRAPPING
You can also save time while supporting the schools by having your gifts wrapped (ANY gift, not just those purchased at REI). Students, parents and community supporters from the school will be at the store to wrap your gifts for a voluntary donation which will be used to support outdoor activities at the schools. And, for every gift the schools wrap, you will receive a chance to win a $50 gift certificate from REI!
Looking for ideas on how to continue your family’s active, outdoor lifestyle throughout the winter? Greater Cincinnati abounds in opportunities to enjoy the outdoors all year around. Join us on Wednesday, November 28 at the new REI Store in Rookwood Commons as Jonathan Swiger, Family Program Coordinator for the Cincinnati Nature Center, shares ideas for winter fun, including full moon hikes, maple sugaring, ice hikes and winter tracking, as well as activities to enjoy in your own backyard! Children are encouraged to attend. You must register to attend, as space is limited. Hope to see you there!
Programs that get kids moving safely through neighborhoods are integral to healthy communities and assist in connecting kids to nearby nature. Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national program designed to assess conditions and facilitate in improving them so students are able to safely walk and bike to school. The program engages community partners in the process. Here in Cincinnati, we are fortunate that Cincinnati Public Schools has a district-wide SRTS initiative which not only gets kids moving, but also reduces transportation costs and improves neighborhoods in the process. In an effort to engage more students to participate in the program, community partners are offering periodic field trips and activities as an incentive. In celebration of October’s National Walk to School Day, Leave No Child Inside connected the CPS Safe Routes to School project to Hamilton County Parks and the Mill Creek Restoration Project, both of whom hosted field trips for seven CPS schools. At Mill Creek, elementary school students learned from Walnut Hills High School students, who were doing water quality testing at the site. They also had an opportunity to explore the new Greenway Trail and gardens. At Hamilton County’s Armeleder Park, students enjoyed a variety of outdoor activities, including a nature scavenger hunt, bird watching and bicycle safety classes. Leave No Child Inside is proud to support CPS in its Safe Routes to School Program and grateful for partners like Hamiliton County Parks and Mill Creek Restoration Project. Both proved that learning can be fun, as evidenced by the students’ smiling faces!
Since the publication of Last Child in the Woods in 2005, countries around the world have acknowledged that children are increasingly disconnected from nature. In September of this year, more than 10,000 people representing the governments of 150 nations and more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations met in Jeju, South Korea for the World Congress of the International Union for the Conservancy of Nature (IUCN). Attendees voted unanimously to adopt a Resolution that children have a human right to experience the natural world.Read more…
One year after founding the Children & Nature Network, Richard Louv challenged Grassroots Leaders with this request: “No platitudes – we need action!”. We are proud that Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati responded to that call, as evidenced by the wide range of activities summarized in our Annual Reports. Now we would like to challenge you to take action to reconnect Greater Cincinnati’s children with nature!
One thing we have learned in the course of our work is that in order to re-introduce nature into the daily lives of children, adults need to “walk the talk”. Adults not only control a child’s ability to access nature, we are role models. Are you setting an example for your child, your grandchild, your niece or nephew, your students or your neighbors?
Are you “walking the talk”? If you answered “yes”, thank you for being a leader in the work of moving us toward a happier, healthier future! If you answered “no”, here is a “no platitudes” challenge for you: Make a commitment to try one outdoor activity this month. Choose something that you think you will really enjoy – something fun for your whole family, or if your kids are gone, for you and your friends – then pick a day and just do it. Green Umbrella wants to make this easy for you. As part of their Meet Me Outdoors campaign, Great Outdoor Weekend(September 22-23) will give Greater Cincinnatians the chance to sample over 120 activities, all of which are free and open to the public. Visit the website, check out your options and make a commitment to go! We hope you’ll be inspired to make outdoor activity a regular part of your life. Take the “no platitudes” challenge – Meet Us Outdoorsat Great Outdoor Weekend!
Throughout our community, organizations like Leave No Child Inside, Green Umbrella, We Thrive!, Go Vibrant! and Closing the Health Gap are working in a variety of ways to engage Cincinnatians in a healthy and FUN lifestyle. A growing number of you are responding to the call, literally moving our community toward better health. Nowhere was this more evident than at June’s Paddlefest event, where the Kid’s Outdoor Adventure Expo engaged 5,000 children in outdoor activities, thousands of Greater Cincinnatians paddled on the Ohio River and more joined the fun by cycling, walking and running alongside on our riverfront trails. More recently, the City of Cincinnati’s new Let’s Move! Campaign kicked off on August 25 with families of all ethnicities joining together to zumba, salsa, yoga, walk and discover our beautiful, new Smale Riverfront Park.
LNCIgc sees the beginning of a community-wide paradigm shift as thousands of you are taking action, having realized that outdoor activities are not just healthy, they can be really fun, many are free, and that there are lots of fringe benefits like stress relief and family bonding. We’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU to organizations like those listed above who are our community’s cheerleaders for a happier, healthier lifestyle, as well as to those of you who have made a commitment to being active outdoors. Together, we can make Greater Cincinnati a place that nurtures children with a happier, healthier outdoor lifestyle.