For some of us, playing outside was all we had for entertainment growing up. There were no video games, cell phones, laptops or tablets, DVD movies or unlimited TV channels offering instant entertainment 24/7. We made our own entertainment along with all the other kids in our neighborhood. In the summer especially, we played outside all day and we all knew when it was time to go home – when the streetlights came on!
For those of you who remember the ‘streetlight’ days, delight in the fact you share a connection with everyone else who had similar experiences. You know what it feels like to run barefoot in the grass, climb a tree, or ride a bike with the cool wind in your face. The feelings those experiences create for each of us makes us all kindred spirits despite the range in ages or geographic region.
Within the last decade or so we’ve begun to recognize that kids today do not have the outdoor experiences of previous generations. Try yelling “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” at a child and – providing they don’t have earbuds in and can hear you – they’ll probably look at you like you’re crazy. The lack of connection today’s youth has to the outdoors has further widened the generation gap and has also contributed to higher rates of childhood obesity and other health issues. Studies have also shown that exposure to the outdoors helps reduce ADHD symptoms and increases scores on standardized tests. So how do we get our kids back outside?
In 2007, California created a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights (COBR) and many states have since drafted their own versions. These lists of fundamental experiences are meant to nourish children’s physical, social and emotional development while connecting them to the outdoors through their backyards, neighborhoods, cities and region.
The COBR acts as a guide to encourage families to get out in nature ,realize the importance of these simple acts, recognize the bond created through these shared experiences, and feel the connection to one another and the outdoors.
How can You Get Involved?
Coach-Net encourages you to promote every child’s right to experience and explore nature so we’ve created our own Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights for you to use or you can see if your state has one with act ivies specific to your area.
- Swim in a lake or a river
- Ride a bike
- Follow a trail
- Go on a picnic
- Camp under the stars
- Cook over a fire
- Go fishing
- Go boating
- Smell a wildflower
- Listen to the songs of birds, crickets or frogs
- Walk barefoot in the grass
- Fly a kite
As you complete each one, share your dedication to making a difference in the life of a child through your social media outlets by pinning, tweeting, and posting the images found here and help spread the word of encouragement to others to do the same.
If you commit to ensuring the children in your life have the opportunity to connect with nature at an early age and build upon that connection throughout their developing years, you are not only helping to build a foundation for them to become good stewards of the earth, you are creating a bond of shared experiences and ultimately a bridge over the widening generational gap.