Michelle Obama refers to it as the Worldwide Day of Play. There has been legislation passed in states across the country, so we can participate in No Child Left Inside Celebrations. Our friends in North Carolina and with The Children and Nature Network know it as Take a Child Outside Week. The American Camp Association, REI, and others have developed a national campaign because Nature Rocks!. Others seek to inspire the next generation of respectful, thoughtful land users during National Hunting and Fishing Day. And the National Park Service recognizes the need for mass reconnection to the natural world, and is offering free admission to all of the National Parks during the National Public Lands Day
Across the country and the globe, September 25th marks the day when EVERYONE should take time to be outdoors.No matter what you call it, or what your political leaning may be, the research is piling up that being outdoors is an essential part of childhood, and—in the mind of many doctors, scientists, philosophers, and mental health advocates—is also an essential part of being a healthy, happy human being.
In the past weeks, there have been innumerable articles published and cited about the vast benefits of spending time in the outdoors.
There have been news stories, blog posts, and other features dedicated to the opening of nature centers from the Middle East, to the UK, to India, to Kalamazoo, MI.
We have shared our 101 Nature Activities with our readers in the past, and we still believe that teaching children how to engage with the outdoors through structured activities is an excellent way to pique interest in being outside.
That said, the focus must remain on play and the simple enjoyment of the natural world. There are moments when the outdoors seems daunting to children, parents, teachers, and mentors alike. Rainstorms leave us running for the classroom, windy days seem to irritate the 3 and under set, gearing up for a play day in the cold ends up taking as long as the kids then actually spend outside.
Yet those are lessons in and of themselves. Lessons about perseverance, creativity, resourcefulness, patience, and the incredible power of redirection. Lessons about being a more tolerant, adventurous, problem solver. Lessons about seeking wonder, appreciating beauty, and choosing to live simply. Lessons about discovery, self-efficacy, and innovation.
As we get our families outside this week and weekend, just remember it is about the quest. Through play and exploration, you will discover answers to questions you didn’t even know you had—and THAT is what makes these minutes, hours, and days outdoors worthwhile.
We are heartened by the global reach of this movement. And we also realize that we have always have been on this path, and—because of our mission—we know that our job as educators, mentors, and youth development professionals is more important now than ever before.
If you are in Colorado, please join us this weekend for our No Child Left Inside Family Fun Day—otherwise, please seek out opportunities in your communities to get your whole family outside to simply play.