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COLUMN: Child's play should be outdoor play

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By Theresa Howard

Did you know that children today are in danger of having shorter life spans than their parents? And did you know that danger exists at least partially because of children’s unhealthy daily activities? We need to pay attention and redirect our children firmly toward daily physical activity and if possible, outdoor interaction with nature.
A research-based report from the National Wildlife Federation is called, “Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body and Spirit through Outdoor Play.” It points out that when not in school, the average child in 2010 stayed indoors watching television and playing with electronic media. By the time the average preschooler starts kindergarten he will have watched more than 5000 hours of TV. Most school-age and adolescent children watch television and other electronic media several hours each day. They get to school and after-school activities primarily by being driven. Their families frequently eat fast food for dinner while dashing to evening activities. When they arrive home, homework may be done in front of the television.
When are children walking anywhere or playing freely outdoors? Only around 25 percent of American children now play outside daily, compared with about 75 percent of the previous generation. Children today also have less opportunity to play during recess at school. Recess is being phased out of many schools.
How much active time outdoors should kids have? The Center for Disease Control recommends one hour of daily active play in nature. Children benefit from freely chosen outdoor play in various ways: children concentrate better in the classroom, and children are more physically active when playing outdoors.
So this summer, take advantage of the local parks and get outside with your kids.
At the Extension Office we have brochures listing all the local park walking trails in the county with information on their lengths and terrain. Call 358-3401 or drop by to pick one up.