Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Encourage kids to scratch that itch to be outdoors

When I was a boy, my mother worried about me. I wasn't a problem child. I just liked to run through the woods naked.

I wasn't a nudist or even an exhibitionist. I was Terry, King of the Apes.

Well, to be honest, we didn't have many primates in New Jersey, other than the knuckle draggers who hung out in front of the delicatessen down the street. But if we did, I knew the gorillas and chimps would have gladly followed me as I tried to swing from tree to tree.

I would not have needed video games or DVDs to keep me entertained. My playground was the woods behind my house. Every day after school, I'd come home, guzzle a glass of milk, then disappear into the bush.

As soon as I could no longer see the houses, I'd strip down to my Fruit of the Looms and take to the trees. I had asked my mom to make me a loincloth like the one my hero wore on television, but she refused, hence the tighty whities.

Nobody would have ever learned of my imaginary jungle realm had it not been for the fact that I often forgot where I left my clothes. I can still remember the scowl on my mother's face as I stood there on the front porch explaining, yet again, why I was wearing only my underwear.

I'm sure if she had taken me to a psychologist, he would have slapped some acronym on me — perhaps THT syndrome for "Thinks He's Tarzan."

But with nine children, my mother had no time for nonsense. So she would just throw me in the bathtub and make me promise to find my clothes the first chance I got.

Times, however, have changed. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the average child between the ages of 8 and 18 spends about 6.5 hours a day with some form of electronic media.

Parents, and I am guilty of this as well, often use TV or video games as "electronic babysitters." The author Richard Louv wrote about this phenomenon in his book Last Child in the Woods.

This growing disconnect between children and the outdoors has been referred to as "nature deficit disorder."

Many state governments are doing what they can to combat this problem. Connecticut has its "No Child Left Inside" program, and California has started the "Children's Outdoor Bill of Health." Now the FWC has formed the "Get Florida Outdoors" coalition.

I was lucky to have a father who valued the outdoors experience. He took me camping and fishing, although he did insist that I wear clothes most of the time.

Today, I have tried to instill that same value system in my son, although I must admit that the boy is also a serial tree climber.

I wanted to name him after my childhood hero, simply for alliteration, but my wife wouldn't have it.

Kai is almost 8, and unlike many children his age, he has no interest in video games. But he does have his vices: Animal Planet, Survivorman and covering himself in mud every chance he gets.

And sometimes, when he gets a whiff of live oak burning in a fireplace somewhere, he pulls me aside and begs with an impassioned plea, "Dad, if we don't go camping soon, I think I'll just go crazy."

So I do my best to keep him clothed, free of mud and close to trees. If you need help getting your child outside, go to www.get

Terry Tomalin can be reached at (727) 893-8808.

Encourage kids to scratch that itch to be outdoors 03/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Ramus to DL, Peterson back, no further moves


    We were expecting a flurry of roster moves this afternoon and we got one. OF Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.

    Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.
  2. Jameis Winston stats: How the Bucs QB performed under pressure


    Every quarterback's performance declines when he faces pressure from the defense.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston faced pressure on more than 30 percent of his pass plays last season. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Could Lightning deal for a defenseman today?


    Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been trying to further bolster his blueline, and he may have a chance to acquire one by tonight's first round of the NHL Draft.

    The Lightning is reportedly in on Travis Hamonic (Islanders), though New York is rumored to be asking for two-first round picks.
  4. SI ranks Quinton Flowers on top 100, above Deondre Francois


    Sports Illustrated's ongoing countdown of the top 100 players in college football includes some high praise for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers.

  5. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft


    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]