Sometimes I’m tempted to create a questionnaire to administer to kids who want to come over. You know, to find out if they are going to be high maintenance, because it sure would be nice to find out ahead of time. The first question would be, “Do you like to play outside?” and the answer would be most revealing. A sturdy, definite “Yes” means that this is a kid that will blend into our household nicely. If it is too hot, or too cold, or you don’t want to get dirty, or sweaty, or you don’t like the bugs or you think the compost pile is weird, then, maybe this isn’t your kinda place.
I think I’m in line with what we’ve known all along about child development, and science is continuing to back the idea up with research. And the latest? Here’s an article with new research showing yet another advantage to outdoor activities: The Sun Is the Best Optometrist . The natural world is a healthy place to be, and our culture needs to head back outside.
In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv shows the critical need for children to spend time outside. It’s a classic, if you haven’t read it you should consider picking up a copy. So that covers the why to go outside. But how? What about children growing up in urban areas?
Access to nature is important in designing areas for children to play and for families deciding where to live. Cities across America are developing an awareness of the need for parks, and there is a program in the works to help pediatricians encourage families to spend time outside by matching them up with local parks that will meet their needs. According to this Washington Post article, the National Park Service is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics on this initiative.
Another sign of the growing enlightenment: the state of Maryland is now requiring high school students to develop environmental literacy. A good idea, in theory, but I’m curious to see how it will be implemented. Textbooks? Tests? Classroom time? (Maybe we should start at birth?)
It’s a wonderful thing, environmental literacy. But I think that in order to preserve this planet, we need to get to know it on a more personal level.