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Parents Magazine Offers Ideas for Outdoor Time

My children -- like many of their peers -- spend far less time in the fresh air than kids did in the past. That's unfortunate, experts say, since communing with nature offers so many benefits. Outdoor time helps kids get exercise, stimulates their senses, and promotes cognitive development. And it can also make children more relaxed. "Kids experience tremendous stress reduction from even a little contact with nature," says Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. A University of Illinois study found that just a 20-minute walk in the park reduced symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Teaching kids to appreciate nature is as easy as it is fun. Our outdoor action plan will help you trade screen time for time beyond the screen door.

While kids often venture outside for organized sports or recess on paved playgrounds, unstructured playtime in nature is scarce. "Put away the Purell and let your kids learn to touch dirt again," suggests Les Stroud, host of the TV show Survivorman, who credits his adventurous adulthood to summer days he spent at a family cottage in the woods.

You don't need to head to the hills to find the pleasures of the wild -- you can do it in your own backyard. "My boys once spent hours watching a wasp repeatedly carry mud from a puddle to build a nest," says Jennifer Joyce, a Westminster, Maryland, mother of four boys, ages 4 to 9. "Afterward, they wanted to learn more,…
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