Please check the Penn State Health Guidelines page for the latest information about masking and the University’s ongoing COVID-19 response.

Get those kids OUTSIDE!

Girls and snowmen at Shaver's Creek
This past weekend, kids visiting Shaver's Creek Environmental Center created crafts and activities using resources on hand and a good dose of imagination - I was amazed by their ingenuity and assertiveness as they engaged in free-form play. These two sisters made snowmen using dried branches, and found milkweed seeds from Kids' Corner to blow into the wind as they made a wish.

Children who are allowed free, unstructured time outdoors show increased levels of happiness, cooperation, self-confidence, and tend to maintain a healthier body weight.

Kids who take risks outside show improved motor coordination and general ease of movement, especially when involved in physical activities, both functional and recreational.

Developing a sense of self is a multifaceted process that should influence body, mind, and spirit in equal parts.  However, in today’s world, many children are taught to fear the outdoors, presented as a place of unknown dangers, nuisances, and unpleasant smells, sights, and sounds.  More mildly, many children are not taught how to appreciate nature and so consider it boring and uneventful.

But with encouragement from teachers, parents, and guardians, children can explore and grow to love green spaces – open fields, parks and lots, woods, tree-lined streets – to establish a positive, self-made relationship with nature.  In doing so, they receive many personal benefits, but also become environmental enthusiasts who will help to protect and enhance these natural places of peace, beauty, learning, wildlife habitat, and recreation when they are adults.

Check out this list of studies for more information about the benefits of natural play for your child’s day:

http://www.childrenandnature.org/downloads/CNNRsrchVol_05.pdf

Why take these moments away from our kids?  Allow your child a chance to roam the physical world on his/her own terms, not just once a month, but every week, every day.  No fancy technological toy, expensive music lesson, structured sports team, or book club can replace this experience.  (Not to bash those other things, of course, but don’t short-change good ol’ playing outside!)

The Nature Center and trails around Shaver’s Creek offer countless opportunities for this exploration – come visit us soon!