Featured Editorial

The Inside Story on Outside Play Benefits for Healthy Kids

Relocating our family from a comfortable suburban neighborhood to a spacious, open rural area has been a life-changing decision. Seeing a neat home with a manicured lawn will always tug at my heartstrings and the excitement of just one thrilling hour in the city brings so much excitement, however nothing compares to the unmistakable change in the air as we approach our home in the mountains. Never could I have ever imagined our life of freestyle composting in the greenery or wildlife encounters just outside our door. We're truly blessed to live in a fantastic area in New York's scenic Hudson Valley that hikers and bikers travel from miles away to enjoy. We are equipped with walking sticks, fishing poles, sleds, bikes, boots, sunscreen, and insect repellent at the ready. Tick checks are very real for us. (My tick count is two on me and two too close for comfort). We're honored to collaborate with featured contributor, Clyde Butcher to share the inside story on outside play benefits for healthy kids. Here's How connecting children to nature is good for both.

Thank you to Clyde Butcher for sponsoring this featured guest post collaboration by contributing educational editorial content resources. 


How Connecting Children to Nature is Good for Both 
Featured Contributor Post | Clyde Butcher

 

Plenty of older Americans hold fond childhood memories of climbing trees, catching frogs, and engaging in endless hours of tag or hide-and-seek with friends.

Most children today, though, spend much less time outdoors, with their recreational hours instead devoted to TV, video games and computers, a trend that has nature advocates concerned.

“If they don’t feel a connection to nature, they aren’t going to feel it’s important,” says Clyde Butcher, a nature photographer who since the 1980s has helped bring national awareness to the Everglades through stunning black-and-white photographs that have been compared to the works of Ansel Adams.

“The question is, how do we get them to make that connection. The answer is that the responsibility lies with you and me. I think it’s important to educate both kids and grownups about the world’s environmental wonders.”

Advocacy groups are trying to do just that.

The National Wildlife Federation, for example, has a Green Hour program designed to encourage parents, grandparents, schools, and others to adopt a goal of an hour per day for children to play and learn outdoors in nature.

Butcher says that he tries to bring nature to people through his photography in the hopes they will be inspired to experience it for themselves. “My goal is for them to say, ‘Wow, I want to go there. I want to see the real thing,’ ” he says.

Introducing children to the great outdoors is about more than just building extraordinary memories. Butcher and other nature proponents say benefits include:

Time outdoors can equal happiness. “Nature is one of those things that can really bring your spirits up,” Butcher says. Indeed, studies show that spending time outdoors is good for your mental health, and those who manage to do so are generally happier than those who stay cooped up inside. Butcher does his part to try to put people in touch with nature. Just recently, his gallery in the Big Cypress Swamp in south Florida sponsored a fall festival that included guided swamp-walk tours for children and adults alike. Those swamp walks provide what Butcher thinks of as education by immersion.

Time outdoors makes children healthier. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to children being overweight, which in turn increases their risk for a number of diseases, such as asthma and diabetes. When children spend time outdoors, they are almost certain to get more exercise, reducing those risks. Health professionals also say that, while over exposure to the sun can be harmful, some time absorbing the sun’s rays is helpful in such ways as boosting your body’s vitamin D.

Time outdoors makes children better stewards of the earth. It’s important to protect the environment, and to preserve natural wonders for future generations, but it’s difficult to truly appreciate nature without venturing out into it, Butcher says. Children who take the time to explore what nature has to offer, he says, are more likely to become advocates for protecting it.

“Sometimes, in the abstract, it’s difficult to understand why nature is so important,” Butcher says. “But when children step into it, and see it firsthand, they can fall in love with it. Then they begin to understand.”

About Clyde Butcher

Clyde Butcher is an acclaimed nature photographer who is best known for his striking black-and-white images of the Everglades in Florida. But he has photographed the beauty of nature in other locations as well. For more than 50 years, he has been preserving on film the untouched areas of the landscape. Butcher has been honored by the state of Florida with the Artist Hall of Fame Award. Other major awards and honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Nature Photography Association; Humanitarian of the Year for 2005 from the International University; the 2011 Distinguished Artist Award from the Florida House in Washington, D.C.; and the Ansel Adams Conservation Award from the Sierra Club.

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