Take A Child Outside Week, a national initiative spearheaded by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, kicks off Tuesday, September 24 and runs through Monday, September 30. Designed to help break down obstacles that keep children from exploring the natural world, the program encourages children and adults to spend time together outdoors. It was inspired by Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, which identifies the benefits of outdoor experiences for children and addresses some of the problems of what he terms “Nature Deficit Disorder,” such as increased feelings of stress, trouble paying attention and feelings of being disconnected from the world.
On the Take A Child Outside website, adults are encouraged to make a pledge to take a child outside during the week and chart their location on a digital map. The website also offers a link to interesting outdoor activities, a list of participating organizations in your area, and a portal for partner organizations to post information and add links to their website. “Free time in nature has been shown to improve every area of a child’s life, from having healthier, stronger bodies, to being more successful in school, to having better relationships in their community,” says Liz Baird, director of education for the Museum and the program’s founder. “Time outside every day should be part of your regular routine.”
Currently, all 50 US states and four foreign countries actively participate in Take A Child Outside Week. More than 400 organizations participate nationwide, including North Carolina State Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Examples of Take A Child Outside activities are:
- Make a Date with the Moon – A monthly journey outside to look at the full moon.
- Spritzing spider webs – Discover the architecture behind spider webs by using spritz bottles.
- Leaf number search – Find and identify leaves with one to ten points and beyond.
- Shadow search – Use chalk to trace a shadow on the sidewalk, come back later to see how the shadow has moved and learn why.
- Animal tracks – Locate animal tracks in the dirt and cast them in plaster.
- Outdoor sculpture – Follow sculptor Andy Goldsworthy’s lead and create sculptures using only tools found in nature.
- Shape search – Find common shapes (square, circle, triangle etc.) in nature.
- Color search – Identify colors of the rainbow found in nature.
- Bird song – Listen for a bird call and attempt your own imitation.
In celebration of the seventh annual Take A Child Outside week, the Museum’s Prairie Ridge Ecostation will highlight the importance of outdoor play for children of all ages by unveiling Nature PlaySpace, a learning environment designed for younger children to explore the outdoors using natural materials. Take A Child Outside activities at Prairie Ridge begin at 10:00 a.m. with nature crafts and story time, and continue with a 10:30 ladybug hunt. At 11:00, Prairie Ridge educators will unveil the new Nature PlaySpace with a vine-cutting ceremony and refreshments. After the vine cutting, the fun continues with exciting nature activities throughout the grounds until 1:00pm.
Dress for the weather and wear closed-toe shoes. For more information contact Cathy Fergen at email@example.com or 919.707.8878.
The Nature Playspace is made possible in part by PNC Grow Up Great.
For more information or to join us as a partner please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-707-9893.