Have your kids had their daily dose of the great outdoors?

Want to nurture a healthy, motivated student? Send your child outside for a daily dose of nature, say advocates of the No Child Left Inside movement.

Once the school year starts, kids tend to hibernate indoors, but studies suggest that giving children access to green spaces, sunlight and fresh air can do everything from reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to improve mood and academic performance. Spending time in nature makes us feel more alive, according to research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology; some say this vitality can translate into increased motivation and capacity for learning.

Each day, try giving kids one hour of unstructured play in the natural world, suggests the National Wildlife Federation, an advocacy group. For children who live in areas where unsupervised outdoor play isn't safe or accessible, a "green" hour can take place in a park, back yard, even on a porch.

Some tips to encourage outdoor play:

• Go with them. If you're excited about going outside, your kids will be, too, said Tanya Berry, a physical education researcher at the University of Alberta. She suggests limiting media use to reduce the pull from the indoors.

• Adopt something. Beaches, parks, forests, highways and yards all need cleaning up.

• Find an event. Children are enthusiastic detectives; check out local nature or ecology centers for scavenger hunts, which help develop problem-solving and visual-discrimination skills.

• Get gadgets. Transform the yard by equipping your children with headlamps or flashlights and letting them explore at night. During the day, give them a small magnifying glass to watch bugs and other creatures. Try binoculars and compasses, too.

• Create or join a family nature club. When families get together — to hike, garden or even take part in a stream reclamation — the kids tend to play more creatively by themselves or with others than during single-family outings, said Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin, $14.95). The Children & Nature Network promotes nature clubs for families and has a free guide on how to start your own; check it out at childrenandnature.org.

Have your kids had their daily dose of the great outdoors? 11/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 5:30am]

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