There is so much researched published on the detriments to children who spend the majority of their time engrossed in screen activity. More and more statistics are being released on the disparity between active hours and sedentary hours; it is an astoundingly expanding chasm of time. Many of the screen activities involve children pretending to be super active individuals engaged in cool adventures, exploring magical places, and conquering new lands. How ironic that these same types of adventures exist right outside their back doors.
Or do they? Maybe it is more accurate to say that the potential for such experiences exists right outside their back doors and within their communities. Adults are partial to blame for children’s affinity to screen adventures versus green adventures. How many times have kids heard “Put that stick down! You’ll poke someone’s eye out” or “Don’t climb that tree, you’ll break an arm” or “Stop digging in the dirt, you’ll get all dirty” or even “Don’t jump in the puddle, you’ll get all wet.” There are as much more examples as there are children who have heard them. Is it any wonder that kids turn to screens for adventure?
To be fair, not all adults are like this. Many adults have taken up the charge to lead and join the movement to get children away from the screen and into the green. And these numbers are growing as fast as ivy on a vine. There are many resources available to parents, teachers, counselors, and other adults who desire to get children moving in outdoor adventures. Here are five of my favorites, which all share a commonality of offering resources, ideas, and programs focusing on active, transformative, experiential learning that engages children in the outdoors to learn first hand.
Nature Explore is a collaborative program between the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. In addition to providing design services, training, and equipment for outdoor classrooms, Nature Explore offers an extensive library of resources for educators and families. From tool kits to books, CDs, and DVDs, parents and teachers have access to a broad range of resources aimed at supporting efforts to connect children to the outdoors. I especially like their Families’ Club kit and the Family Toolkit.
Children and Nature Network
Founded by Richard Louv and others, Children and Nature Network is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fuel the worldwide grassroots movement to reconnect children with nature. This website offers guides and tool kits for families and educators to create meaningful experiences in nature for children. From starting a nature club in the community to becoming a community leader, this website is the go-to site for stepping up efforts beyond the family and classroom.
National Wildlife Federation
According to their website, “National Wildlife Federation is a voice for wildlife, dedicated to protecting wildlife and habitat and inspiring the future generation of conservationists.” This site is extensive and provides a deluge of information. For families and teachers, click the tab “What We Do” at the top of the site then click on the tab “Connect kids & nature” on the left menu. Here you will find links to magazines, tools, programs, and more to stimulate your energy and the flow of ideas. I particularly like the focus on designing natural play spaces in the backyard.
National Park Service Junior Ranger Program
NPS describes this program on their website as “….an activity based program conducted in almost all parks….some Junior Ranger programs [being] national. Many national parks offer young visitors the opportunity to join the National Park Service “family” as Junior Rangers. Interested youth complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5 to 13, although people of all ages can participate.” I like that this is an experiential program where children are actively engaged in learning and not a paper and pen program. There are separate tabs for both teachers and kids resources and programs, to facilitate the navigation of resources.
Green Hearts Institute
While the message on their landing page states the cessation of their operation, the website is still live and offers a downloadable copy of the Parents’ Guide to Nature Play. An extensive resource tab provides past newsletters, podcasts, links to other organizations, as well as over a dozen other downloads. I especially enjoy the inclusion of a dedicated tab that explains nature preschools, why they are important, and resources for learning more. The Nature Play tab also provides great basic information for those just getting started and lists many resources at the end for further reading and learning.
Whether you check out these sites or prefer to do your own search for resources, begin today to commit to spending less time with the screens and more time with the green. Start slow if you must. Plant the seed of intention, water it with action, weed out the excuses, and reap the harvest of sound body, mind, and soul.
Feel free to leave a comment about your adventures in the green! I would love to read them!