A generation ago, perhaps two, the idea that children had to be encouraged to play outdoors would have seemed laughable. If anything, today's grandparents remember being called by their own parents to come into the house because it was too dark outside.
That was then. Today, many youngsters, fully engaged with computers, television sets and other electronic devices, never even think of going outside to play.
Although that shift became obvious to natural resources managers and educators by the turn of the century, it didn't catch the attention of the public at large until the 2005 publication of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" by Richard Louv, who documented the growing disconnect between youngsters and the natural world. To those with an outdoor recreation bent, the decline in outdoor play and exploration is alarming.
A 2000 study conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that children under the age of 13 spent only 30 minutes per week in unstructured play outside. Another study found that the percentage of people indicating that the outdoors was the most influential environment of their childhood dropped from 96 percent to 46 percent in the span of just one generation.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Ray Rustem, an advocate of the No Child Left Inside movement, the benefits children derive from outdoor recreation have been heavily documented.
A youngster is all smiles after his first fishing adventure…
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