Passing on those outdoor memories

Jun. 08, 2013 @ 03:59 PM


Remember how much fun it was to pull honeysuckle and suck the sweet nectar? Explore, or pick plums or berries in the woods? Play hopscotch, squirt people with the water hose, slide down a hill in a cardboard box, or catch fire flies at night?

I remember them all. Those were the good ole days.

Our parents had to make us come in at night; we just couldn’t get enough of the outdoors. Now, outdoor play seems to be going out of style. Children still need to spend time outdoors!

Unlike days gone by, both parents often work. When they come home, they are too tired to play outdoors with their children. Therefore, bicycle chains are rusty and kids have little opportunity to enjoy outdoor play and explorations.

Rather than call kids to come in from outdoors, parents ask them to turn off the television and put away iPods, computers and cell phones at night.

Spending time with your family outside has many benefits. Going outside has been shown to reduce obesity, contribute to better health, reduce media addiction, and counteract the ef­fects of attention deficit disorder and other learning problems (Kuo & Taylor, 2004; Burdette & Whitaker, 2005; Bell & Dy­ment, 2006).

This summer, consider mixing old with the new. Put aside electronics and have family fun outdoors. Introduce your children to activities you enjoyed as a child.

Go on a backyard exploration or hike through the woods. When you return home, use the computer to discover the names of different critters you saw along the way. Or, you can identify leaves, trees and flowers common to your area. Save a jar with a top on it, poke small holes in it and catch fire flies at night. After watching them glow, set them free and talk about how much fun it was. Perhaps you have berries growing along the edge of your yard or down your street. Take a bucket to pick some during a family walk.

The games you play outdoors can provide a lifetime of memories for your child to pass on to his children. You can model positive family interactions and social skills your youngster can use to get along with others.

So put on your sunscreen (with at least 15 SPF), adequate clothing (even in the summertime), a hat with a three-inch brim or bill facing forward, sunglasses, a small bag or bucket to collect interesting things and head out for an adventure of a lifetime.

For more information on outdoor fun and summer safety tips, call the Vance County Parenting Education Program at (252) 438-8188 or visit a parent educator at 305 Young St., Henderson. Thanks to funding by Franklin-Granville-Vance Smart Start, Vance County Cooperative Extension has parent educators available to help you.