Get wild, child


The snow is finally gone, the temperature has cracked 60 degrees, and it’s time to get outdoors with your kids.

This week is National Wildlife Week, which encourages kids to “unleash their wild child” and learn to discover the world of green outside.

This year’s theme, “Be Out There At Home, School and Play,” is designed to bring children and their families together in nature, get schools involved in going green, and show kids how the outdoors can be a good play space.

The first National Wildlife Week was more than 70 years age, when kids spent more time climbing trees, skipping stones, and running barefoot in the grass. Today’s child spends an average of just four to seven minutes a day outside — compared to 7 hours 38 minutes a day on electronic media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This generation of “indoor kids” is missing out on the simple joys found in nature, says Rebecca Garland, executive director of the “Be Out There” campaign.

Lack of outdoor time has been linked to childhood obesity, depression, stress and attention deficit disorder. Time spent with nature improves children’s physical, mental and emotional health, boosts classroom performance and encourages conservation stewardship, the foundation says.

Even if you don’t live near a forest or open space, here’s some ways to enjoy the outdoors, courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation:

— Take a walk in your neighborhood. Get to know the birds and animals that call your neighborhood home. What are they doing this time of year? What are they eating? Can you see any bird nests?
— Check out the trees near your house. Touch the bark, examine the leaves, smell the acorns and seeds.
— Look for insects and spiders and other creepy crawlies.
— Take photos or draw pictures of your wildlife neighbors. Put them into a collage.
— Put some treats out for the birds.
— Join a community garden.
— Visit a local nature center.

Here in Champaign-Urbana, you can explore Busey Woods, a 59-acre nature preserve with seasonal ponds and more. Or see turtles and owls up close at the adjacent Anita Purves Nature Center. Or explore the prairie at Meadowbrook Park and the savannah at Weaver Park.

For more ideas:
www.urbanaparks.org
www.nwf.org/wildlifeweek (Resources for kids, parents and educators, including official Family Activity Passport with local plant and animal watch lists and nature-themed games)
www.nwf.org/naturefind (Database helps families locate nearby outdoor recreation spots with Wildlife Week activities)

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