By Russell Graves
It’s a profound, yet simple statement. Kids belong outside.
Since my children were small, they’ve been enjoying the natural world on a daily basis – largely in part because my wife and I have made it a point to introduce our children to the things that make Texas wild. Our motivations have always been simple because we want our kids to love and appreciate the outdoors.
Even more than just a rote appreciation for nature, there’s something deeper that connects kids with outside playtime, and a litany of scientific and scholarly articles prove what many Texas parents know instinctively: there is long and lasting physical and cognitive value in turning off electronic entertainment and finding entertainment in the outdoors.
Growing up in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s, I spent most of my free time outside. Growing up in the country, time spent outside was a given since there wasn’t much to compete for my time. Therefore, depending on the season, I either hunted, fished, camped, hiked or explored in a continual, almost predictable rotation, year after year.
Things aren’t so romantically nostalgic for today’s young people.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports that children today spend an average of six hours a day consuming media from the televisions and computers. Sadly, less than four minutes a day is spent in unstructured outdoor play. Astonishingly, the Nielsen
Company (the organization who publishes television ratings of record) says that most preschoolers log in excess of 32 hours of TV per week and have seen more than 5000 hours of television by the time the reach kindergarten. That amount of time is equivalent to the time it takes to earn a college degree.
The lack of activity has many alarmed as there is a direct correlation between kids who consume the most television and the highest rates of obesity. Over the past two to three decades, the number of children who are overweight has doubled. As a result, diseases like type 2 diabetes that were once relegated to adults, are now showing up in alarming frequency in children. The rise in attention deficit disorders, according to some studies, is also due to the decreased, unstructured outdoor playtime.
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