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News & Commentary In the News

In Chicago and Philadelphia, the Difference a Park Makes

Chicago and Philadelphia are at the forefront of a growing, big-city trend of developing parks and public spaces for social and economic benefits. Aided by a longstanding tax that goes directly to parks, Chicago has been undertaking a major parks and open space program, upgrading neighborhood playgrounds and recreation centers, scooping up acres of disused land for new green areas and repurposing large swaths of formerly industrial waterfront.

New Zealand Kids Demand More Nature Play

Children in Wellington, New Zealand voice their demand for more nature play spaces in a new Play Spaces Policy draft submitted to the Wellington City Council. The group, Wellington Playcentre Association, coordinated the effort as part of their larger effort to create a network of play spaces. The new policy does not focus on playgrounds, but rather emphasizes nature play including more natural sensory play opportunities and use of sustainable, natural materials and native planting where possible.

Watching Nature Documentaries Boosts Happiness, Says Study

A recent study has found that tuning into nature documentaries can have an immediate impact on increasing happiness and reducing overall stress. The study was commissioned by the BBC to mark the launch of its new critically-acclaimed nature series “Planet Earth II.”

Improving Kids’ Health through Play

In an effort to promote healthy habits, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix has implemented a new approach to screen time combining technology with physical activity. If children want screen time, they have to earn it with physical activity. A wearable tracking device worn on the wrist, provided to the Boys and Girls Clubs by Unitedhealthcare, keeps track of exercise or play activity. The more points the kids get, the more video time they get.

Optometrists Warn Myopia a ‘Looming Epidemic’ for Screen-Addicted Children

Myopia is a “looming epidemic” with young children needing glasses sooner, according to experts in Australia. A decade ago, myopia tended to peak in children when they hit puberty, but optometrists are now reporting significant rates of the condition in children as young as five. Experts point to a decline in time outdoors in favor of screen time indoors as a factor damaging children’s eyes.

Making a Case for Undeveloped Open Spaces

Americans value undeveloped open spaces, according to a new poll from NRPA. More than four in five surveyed Americans agree that local governments should be setting aside land for the sheer purpose of preserving the natural landscape. Gender, age, region, household size and parental status had no effect on the outcome of the results.

National Park Week Is April 15-23

National Park Week will focus on special activities during four fee-free days in mid-April. Parks around the country will offer a range of activities such as living history presentations, ranger-led astronomy programs and camping tutorials. During the week, several day-long celebrations are planned, including Junior Ranger Day, Earth Day and Park Rx Day, which will promote parks as places to attain physical and mental wellness.

Watching Garden Birds Is Good for Your Mental Health, Research Shows

A new UK study finds that just being able to see birds, shrubs and trees can help mental health, even if people are not in a rural area. The academics found that lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. It did not matter what species of bird they were watching.

Want Happy Kids? Give Them More Experiences and Less Stuff

According to a new study, experiential gifts are more likely to build long-lasting memories for kids than material gifts because of the emotional connection that accompanies doing something rather than getting something. In addition, the type of experience matters less to children than the sense of connection it brings.

National Parks Saw a Record-setting Number of Visitors Last Year

United States National Parks set attendance records in 2016. A new tally shows 330.97 million recreational visits to national parks last year, a 7.72% increase from the year before. National Park Service says the Find Your Park marketing campaign, designed around the 100th anniversary of the NPS’ creation, built on a five-year upswing in visitation nationwide.

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