If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that getting families and kids outside is a passion of mine. I abhor the idea that an outdoorsy life has to end when a child enters the family. I believe that getting outside with your kids is not only possible – it’s essential.
Nature Deficit Disorder became a buzzword in the outdoor community back in 2005 when Richard Louv’s fantastic book Last Child in the Woods hit the New York Times’ bestseller list. Louv argues that, as children spend less time outside, emotional and behavioral problems begin to rise. It’s an interesting argument. I’m not a psychologist and I have no idea whether or not a lack of access to nature causes things like Attention Deficit Disorder. I’m not going to touch that with a ten foot pole.
I will, however, wholeheartedly get on board with the idea that access to the outdoors is a vital part of childhood (and adulthood, really).
Children learn by doing. They learn by getting their hands (and probably everything else) dirty. They need to have spaces and places to let their imaginations, and their tiny little bodies, run wild. They need fresh air and movement and the chance to explore a world that feels new and untouched (even if it only feels that way to them).
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels that way.
This year the White House rolled out a new program called Every Kid in a Park, granting 4th graders all across the U.S. unlimited access to federal lands for the next academic year. National parks? National monuments? National Pretty-Much-Anything? They’re all free for fourth graders.
Do you think the kids are excited?
I’ve talked before about the barriers that keep the current crop of kids from spending as much time outside as their parents but one of the things that I didn’t mention is the financial aspect. Visiting National Parks can be expensive. Starting next month, a visit to Arches National Park will cost you a whopping $25 per vehicle and other places are similarly priced. This may not sound like much if we’re talking about one visit to one Park, but if we want kids to have regular access to these special places (which we do, right?), the cost goes up significantly.
I certainly don’t think that taking kids to the big parks is the only way to get them to care about nature but I do think that it’s a step in the right direction. And if it gets parents motivated to take their kids to see some of our most treasured landmarks? So much the better.
Today’s youth have a lot of things vying for their attention – thanks to the Every Kid in a Park program for giving nature a fighting chance.
For more information or to get a pass for your fourth grader, please check out everykidinapark.gov!