To combat today’s “indoor childhood” trend, National Wildlife Federation has a new goal to move 10 million kids from their indoor habitat back into the outdoors, at home, school, and parks, anywhere there is green space. A generation ago, kids spent hours playing outside each day, now it’s down to minutes.
This move in the wrong direction demonstrates that while positive steps have been taken, not enough has been done to correct the problem since it first received national attention seven years ago. The consequences are threatening the health and happiness of our nation’s children, the country’s escalating health care costs, and the future of conservation.
“National Wildlife Federation is committed to helping parents, policy makers, educators and child-serving organizations so that children can get the outdoor time they need,” said Larry Schweiger, NWF President and CEO. “There’s a reason they call it the Great Outdoors and we’re going to make sure kids know why.This work is too important to lose another generation before we tackle the problem.”
A recent survey of mom bloggers by National Wildlife Federation showed that parents are on board with helping NWF achieve this goal, but it’s often easier said than done. 94 percent of moms surveyed think kids are not getting enough outdoor play time, but at the same time thirty percent of moms feel guilty, inadequate or overwhelmed that they aren’t getting their kids outside more.
Some forward-thinking policy makers also acknowledge the problem. Rep. Ron Kind (WI) and Senator Mark Udall (CO) introduced the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act in Congress to support local, state and federal programs that connect youth and families with the natural world with an emphasis on improving children’s health and fostering future conservation efforts.
The lure of technology is a factor, but it isn’t the only thing keeping kids inside. After school commitments from homework to extracurricular activities, shorter or nonexistent recess during the school day, lack of access to outdoor play spaces and parental safety concerns about unsupervised outdoor play have all led to kids spending an alarming amount of time within the confines of four walls. Many of these barriers are more significant and harder to overcome in under-served communities.
NWF’s goal to give kids more outdoor time over the next three years aims to combat the indoor childhood trend so that kids are outside playing and learning on a more regular basis. Experts at the National Wildlife Federation believe that increased time outdoors, in the company of fresh air and green spaces, will inspire kids and parents to develop a daily outdoor habit.
This outdoor time excludes time spent in organized sports, which while beneficial, doesn’t give kids the same benefits as free play in green spaces. By setting the benchmark high, at 10 million, NWF broadcasts the urgency of the problem which requires widespread behavioral change – millions strong. Only a major shift can move kids to a healthier and happier paradigm that includes a daily dose of the outdoors. Research shows that spending time outside helps kids grow lean and strong, boosts mood, improves school performance and creates a stronger tie to the natural world.
To achieve the 10 Million Kids Outdoors goal, National Wildlife Federation will educate, inspire and work together with the major influencers of children’s time. Through the organization’s efforts:
- Parents will gain the knowledge and tools they need to incorporate regular outdoor time into their children’s days,
- Schools will restore recess,
- Park and recreation departments, and other child-serving institutions will foster outdoor play and learning,
- Local, state and national policy makers will recognize the integral role outdoor time plays in the health and well-being of our nation’s kids and the future of conservation in this country.
Go to 10 Million Kids Outdoors and learn how you can help make this goal a reality.