Somewhere along the line that all changed, and today many children spend weekend and after school hours indoors in front of the television or computer, playing indoors sports, or engaged in other enrichment activities. Don't believe me? Research shows that the average child spends six hours a day watching television, playing video games or using the computer. Other research estimates that participation in outdoor activities among children ages 9 to 12 declined 50 percent between 1997 and 2003.
Why children spend less time outdoors is up for debate, but the drawbacks of such behavior are many. Few would argue that time outdoors and an understanding of nature and the world around them isn't anything but beneficial to children and necessary for them to lead a healthy and happy life. And how can children care about the environment or even understand environmental issues if they don't understand how the natural world works?
Children need to explore the world around them, and the outdoors is a part of that world. Author Jennifer Ward has the solution. Her book, Let's Go Outside: Outdoor Activities and Projects to Get You and Your Kids Closer to Nature offers up ideas, activities and projects to get kids outdoors and enjoying themselves.
Illustrations by Susie Ghahremani, Trumpeter Books
A pocket-sized manual for tween or parent, Let's Go Outside offers up ideas for fun and imaginative outdoor play. Whether your child is into crafts or sports, lives in the country, suburbs or the city, there's something for everyone. Outdoor activities such as tent camping, hiking and outdoor photography are described in such a way that tweens can immediately turn a Saturday afternoon or a few hours after school into an adventure. Fun projects such as flower pressing, making sun prints and constructing a tree swing are easily explained so that your tween can get going and make it happen. Other fun activities include growing vegetables and herbs, how to make a grass whistle, and how to be an outdoor spy.
Ward also borrows from the past by presenting activities that many parents and grandparents would remember well, such as kick the can, capture the flag, kite flying and hopscotch. The author even gets the reader's imagination going by explaining how to pan for gold and make a compost garden.
Each activity is accompanied by a list of supplies needed (most of them everyday items one would find around the home), and simple instructions, making it breezy reading for any reader. Pull-out boxes titled, "Take it Further" gives adults or tweens a little more information, to turn the activity into a learning lesson.
Let's Go Outside would be a wonderful gift for a preteen or even to a parent or grandparent who wishes to expose the children in their lives to the wonders of the outdoors. Consider it as the ideal Christmas stocking stuff or as an Easter basket item. Or, present the book as a gift to a teacher, scout master or any other adult who enjoys sharing nature with children.
Note: Jennifer Ward is the author of I Love Dirt! and numerous other books on nature for children. She speaks frequently on the subject of nature and children to schools and at conferences across the country.