Monday, September 8, 2008

National Wildlife Federation Green Hour Helping to Get Kids Outside

When I was a kid my friends and I were outside all the time. I literally had one of those childhoods where we ran around the neighborhood with kids from my street and one or two streets over until we heard parents starting to call us in for dinner or right before it got dark after dinner.

That doesn't seem to happen too much anymore. Parents are afraid to let their children outside unsupervised. More families have two working parents and finding the time to get outside with their kids is often low on the list of priorities. Kids have more to occupy themselves indoors than they did 30 years ago - I had the TV; my kids have the TV with DVDs, gaming systems, the computer, and mp3 players.

The National Wildlife Federation has a program called
Green Hour that is encouraging families to get their kids outside for one hour every day. The Green Hour is one hour of unstructured play outside each day. That means that soccer practice doesn't count!

Why unstructured? According to the Green Hour website, children who have unstructured playtime outdoors:
  • Play more creatively
  • Have lower stress levels
  • Have more active imaginations
  • Become fitter and leaner
  • Develop stronger immune systems
  • Experience fewer symptoms of ADD and ADHD
  • Have greater respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment
I'll add another benefit - kids sleep better. If you've got a child who is prone to insomnia like my nine year old, one hour of outdoor play can make a big difference. It does for my son.

Making this happen may take a big change in a family's schedule. It may take unscheduling your kids - dropping a structured activity or two. It will most likely mean limiting TV or gaming time to 1/2 hour a day or only on weekends. My kids can only play their gaming systems during the school year on weekends. It may mean getting out from in front of the computer or TV for parents so they can go outside to keep an eye on the kids.

GreenHour.org has a list of activities that parents can get their children to do if they are unsure about how to start a Green Hour and they even have a weekly podcast with ideas and advice.

What do you think of this? How did we get to a point in our society that we need a program like this to get our kids outside!? How do you get your kids out the door and away from a video screen?
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6 comments:

Cheap Cookin Mama said...

I have to admit that my kids are outside more, now that they are bit older and I feel more comfortable and the older ones watch the younger ones etc.

It's not just our children's lives that we overbook but ours as well. It seems we have to schedule outside time which is a real shame.

My brother was watching my kids play outside the other day, having some sort of adventure, and asked, "When is it that we loose our imagination?" as the kids were running from a monster tree. I fully agree, having unstructured time is really important.

Robin Shreeves said...

I feel better letting them out now that they are older too (as long as the oldest is out there), but I'm constantly at the window checking on them.

I've actually recently discovered the perfect spot to lean up against on the tree on my front lawn so I can read while the kids are riding their bikes out front. It's always been there, of course, but I just started sitting there. I can see everything from the spot and it's very comfortable.

Allison said...

My kids are 10 and 8 and I adopted this philosophy last year when I read about it on Green Hour. I was lucky that the neighbor kids were out also. The kids are not allowed TV on school days. And believe me their brains are better for it. They actually get a sense of responsibilty also. I do have to admit my son carries a cheap cel phone to check in every so often. And I drill them about stranger danger. But we are the lucky ones, I am a SAHM. I would think if I worked it would be harder to have this "free" time. But I guess I would try to find a sitter/care that has this philosophy too.
Great post.

Robin Shreeves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin Shreeves said...

Allison - I imagine it would be harder to work this in if the kids were in after school care and none of us got home until 5:30 or 6 in the afternoon. I am so thankful for the ability to work from home be here after school with them.

wheresanne said...

What wonderful posts! I've been working on Green Hour for a few months now, and it's amazing how many parents are agreeing with the importance of unstructured, unplugged free time.

Consider joining our community of parents at http://greenhour.org/content/community to find out how others find ways to limit screen-time and increase free-time! Thanks!

Anne Keisman
Online Media Coordinator
Green Hour