Newswise — The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has launched a new initiative to inform parents, caregivers, educators and elected officials about the importance of outdoor experiences in children's lives and to increase the number of children who spend time exploring the outdoors.
This generation of children spends so much time indoors that they are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature. A Kaiser Family Foundation study finds that U.S. children (ages 8 to 18) spend an average of 6.5 hours a day inside using electronic media: computers, video games, television and MP3 players.
With the high incidence of childhood obesity, high blood pressure, attention deficit diagnoses and more, it's a growing trend that has profound implications for the health and well-being of today's children.
NWF' Green Hour program, developed as part of its new initiative, is a first step in helping to reverse the "nature deficit" in today's children. It's designed to help get kids—and their parents—off the couch, out the door and exploring the world around them.
"Through Green Hour and related programs, NWF is committed to reversing this indoor trend, assuring that youngsters enjoy the many benefits of outdoor time," says Kevin Coyle, Vice President of Education Programs. "As they experience the world around them, they will also grow to love and care for it. This initiative offers hope for the welfare of our children as well as the future of environmental stewardship."
National Wildlife Federation's Green Hour program and the Green Hour website, www.greenhour.org, show parents and caregivers how children benefit greatly from an hour of unstructured outdoor play each day. There they can learn practical skills and how to experiment in the physical world. While their imaginations soar, their stress levels can drop. They can become fitter and leaner, and some studies show that their immune systems also grow stronger.
Time spent surrounded by nature helps young people see where they fit in the world, the value of wildlife and wild places and the true meaning of conservation. When kids don't experience nature first-hand, it's unlikely they will grow up wanting to protect it.
A child's Green Hour can take place in any green space where children can safely learn and explore; in a garden, a backyard, the park down the street. Some ideas for outdoor exploration, recommended by the National Wildlife Federation, are:
"¢ Enjoy a five senses hike"¢ Organize a nature scavenger hunt"¢ Explore a local nature trail"¢ Camp out in the backyard"¢ Take a nature photo safari"¢ Put up a bird feeder and watch for visitors"¢ Observe the night sky"¢ Plant a family tree and watch it grow"¢ Invite neighborhood kids to join in a bug walk and critter talk
At the Green Hour website, parents and caregivers can share their family's backyard adventures and outdoor ideas with each other as members of an online community. They can also learn how to adapt activities for different ages, experience levels and learning styles. And for rainy days and inclement weather, the site recommends books, kid-friendly recipes, crafts and tactile activities, all relevant to natural and seasonal themes.
As NWF's initiative expands, efforts will include support of revolutionary state and federal policy changes that will foster increased daily outdoor time for children.
NWF's Green Hour program is sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited. "Wild Birds Unlimited is very proud to be a sponsor of the National Wildlife Federation's Green Hourâ„¢ program," said John Schaust, Chief Naturalist at Wild Birds Unlimited. "Our mission has always been to bring people and nature together, and it is imperative that we reconnect children to the wonders of the natural world."
The National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization protecting wildlife for our children's future.