I received this terrific guide from our preschool director entitled "A Parent's Guide to Nature Play." It says that American kids spend 27% of their time in front of media (video games, TV, computers and music.) I am guessing it is higher in a lot of homes!
It also says that kids spend only 15 of their time in outdoor play - and get this - that includes structured outdoor play like a soccer or baseball game. Unstructured outdoor play amounts to 1% a week!
And I believe it. I have to beg my 5-year old to go play outside. What happened to roaming around the yard, digging in the dirt or making mud pies?
This guide is 17 pages long and talks about what happened to outdoor play, why it matters and what to do about it.
I'll sum it up. We are more urbanized, kids have longer school days, there are more dangers, and of course media.
It matters because kids need activity/to be active, it is proven to help ADHD, it helps immune systems develop properly and it teaches conservation values.
The guide goes on for several pages about what you can do as a parent. The three key ingredients to good, old-fashioned nature play that is UNSCRUCTURED are:
1. The right kind of place: the site must have ways to discovery nature: rocks, dirt, trees, bugs, rough patches of land, etc.
2. The right kind of play: children should initiate the play themselves, there are no rules and they play with nature not just in nature.
3. The right kind of re-play: play in nature every day, again and again.
There are even more suggestions on exactly what you can do (or not do) to your backyard. The guide says that having an untouched mound of dirt is a GREAT thing for kids to explore.
For much, much more, including many specific (and creative) things to do to your backyard, request a guide. Go to www.greenheartsinc.org