Get youth outdoors for overall health and well-being

Youth should engage in outdoor play and learning for the benefit of their health and well-being.

The 1996 Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Hunting and Fishing Heritage Task Force of Michigan Report states, “With the advent of urban/suburban society, we, as a public, are becoming increasingly distant from the land.  We are becoming removed from a realistic understanding of our relationship with wildlife and our role in natural processes.” 

This has become even more of a concern in the 21st century with the increase in computers, video games, television, smart phones and other technology taking the place of real life situations and activities.  For example a child can play tennis, ski and fish in the comfort of their own living room.  Children can participate in outdoor type activities these days without having to put on shoes or clothing, or stepping outside in order to make contact with nature. There is great value in having children get outside for their health and well-being. Outdoor experiences are important to youth development, socially, physically emotionally and intellectually. 

The American Institutes for Research show that children today spend less than thirty minutes a week in unstructured outdoor play, while children and youth between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of more than six hours a day with electronic media. Children who have regular opportunities for free/unstructured play in the out-of-doors demonstrate greater levels of creativity, cooperation, conflict resolution and leadership.

The role of adults – be they parents, educators or the neighbor next door – should include getting children engaged in positive outdoor activities as often as possible to redirect the focus of our children and to help them develop an appreciation for nature, improve their quality of life and most importantly, to develop stewards for our natural resources.

Explore these other Michigan State University Extension news articles for how to get children engaged in nature:

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