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Outdoor Kids
Spring is finally here and it’s time to get our kids outdoors! Sitting on the carpet can be replaced with rolling in the grass. Watching TV can be replaced with watching frogs and bugs. And playing video games can be replaced with playing outdoor games.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, in the last 20 years there’s been quite a shift from kids playing outdoors to kids staying indoors. In fact, the average American child spends only 30 minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play. If you think that sounds pretty good, here’s the rest of the statistic: they spend seven hours a day in front of some sort of electronic screen. Watching TV, surfing the web, texting on smart phones, and playing apps—this is what kids do for fun now.

Pretty sad, isn’t it? Gone are the days when kids would play outdoors until it was time for dinner. And because of this, they are out of shape, overweight, and stressed out. But more than that, the Federation believes that “they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.” [1]

Good for Their Eyesight

Outdoor play can help kids develop a strong, healthy body that will serve them for years to come. Playing will keep them from becoming obese, and vitamin D from the sun will help keep their bones and hearts strong. By developing good habits of outdoor fun, they may ward off diabetes in the future. And surprisingly, outdoor play is good for their eyesight because it improves long-distance vision.

Outdoor play can help kids have healthier minds. The Federation says there is proof that students who attend schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening. And when it comes to tests that require critical thinking skills, these students perform at higher levels. Another interesting note: exposure to nature may be effective in reducing symptoms for kids with ADHD.

Outdoor play can help kids be happier. Experiments have shown that stress levels go down in a matter of minutes when a stressed child sees green spaces. As much as we may think it’s good to keep our kids busy in programs and lessons, a hurried lifestyle can lead to anxiety and depression.

So this spring, why not turn off the electronics more often? Put your kids in some play clothes and send them outside. They may grumble and complain at first, but they will soon come to love the benefits of outdoor play. And while you’re at it, go outside and play yourself. You, too, can receive these same wonderful benefits.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

[1] http://www.nwf.org/be-out-there/why-be-out-there/health-benefits.aspx

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