Ready, Set, Go Out Side!

This week is a very eventful week and parents will have to make a choice. On the one had we have ABC promoting National Stay At Home Week. On the other hand, about 250 US and Canadian organizations are launching “Take a child out side week”. So, what are we to do?

Let’s look at the facts.

National Stay At Home Week is the start of the new fall TV season. ABC execs claim this new “holiday” will help our environment because we will all be conserving gas. If ABC thinks conserving gas will be the motivator for convincing us to put our families in front of the TV more, they haven’t looked lately at our kids’ after school schedules or bodies. This “holiday” is really no more than a failed attempt to play off of April’s TV Turn Off Week. As Michael Schneider wrote in his Huffington Post blog:”Consider it the flip side of the annual April event “TV Turnoff Week” — something the networks haven’t been as eager to embrace.”

Of course they haven’t wanted to embrace TV Turn Off Week! ABC is in the business of making TV shows. But, sometimes kids need less TV and ABC would be wise to admit that just a little.

ABC is right on one point: the health care world loves, absolutely loves, campaign weeks. But, they work! And, some weeks should be left alone and supported, such as weeks that encourage kids to get outside and move and play more, like this week’s “Take A Child Out Side Week” which started a year ago in North Carolina and is now all over the US and Canada.

The campaign hopes to “help break down obstacles that keep children from discovering the natural world.” According to the campaign website,going outside has the following benefits for kids?

* connects children to the natural world
* helps kids focus in school
* reduces chances of obesity

Their website also includes a great list of ideas to do with your kids outdoors.

Is this really needed? Yes. The American Academy of Pediatrics feels strongly that kids need more free play because they are over-scheduled and over-stressed. This campaign is one way of accomplishing that. You just have to look at any state park to recognize there is something missing compared to when we were kids: families. According to MSNBC, “Attendance is down about 2 million visitors at Missouri’s state parks, from about 18 million annually in 2004 to 16 million in 2007. Park officials can’t say conclusively why that is — rising gas prices may play a role — but they think families also need to be reminded of what parks offer and the benefits of outdoor play.”

If TV is used for messages, the messages our kids need to see and hear is to get outside more and play. TV should be reserved for very small parts of the very end of the day to unwind but that’s about it. It won’t be easy. Families can get stuck in their ways and even being over programmed can become a way of life. But, once you cut something out and being to reap the benefits of everyone becoming more relaxed and having more time to have fun out doors, the small amount of angst will be well worth it.

You will likely have to cut something out in your child’s schedule to create the time to have free time but that alone is telling! And, it will be well worth it. That extra activity will hardly be missed once everyone begins to explore the world outdoors and experience what it is like to have true free time together. And, you’ll enjoy having the extra gas money to get to those parks you’ve been yearning to explore!

So, free up that time and go out side and have some fun!!