Spend more time outdoors with kids in 2012

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From Daily Times

As usual, Christmas 2011 was a wonderful day. My grandkids were blest with many amazing gifts and I had the good fortune to watch many of them open the wrappings. It didn’t take long however, for me to realize that most of the gifts were “inside” presents.

The average American child spends 55 hours a week with electronic media. Between DVDs to watch, new computers and phones for social networking, electronic games to master, hundreds of channels of cable/satellite to watch on the big screen TV and iPods/iPads for music and/or more movies, children have little or no time to get any exercise or have interface with the natural world. This is especially true during the shortened days of winter.

In 2005 Richard Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder, or NDD, in his book “The Last Child in the Woods.”

“A lack of routine contact with nature may result in stunted academic and developmental growth. This [is an] unwanted side-effect of the electronic age which can cause attention problems, obesity, anxiety and depression,” states Richard Louv in the book.

According to Dr. Laura Markham at www.ahaparenting.com, kids that spend significant time outdoors are calmer, happier, less likely to be overweight, healthier, better students and more creative.

So, what is a concerned parent, grandparent or relative supposed to do? How can we help them get their RDDE (Recommended Daily Dose of Exercise)? Allow me to make some suggestions.

Take a walk. This most simple of outings is perfect for kids of all ages. Simply tailor the difficulty and distance to the age and ability of the child. I have enjoyed short circuits at the Farmington River Walk with pre-schoolers and 50 milers with older scouts and they each had something unique and fulfilling. There is almost always something interesting to see and point out to the youth. Carry a nature guide publication for birds, plants, or animals and their tracks. Keep a record of the different species noted in a binder to be compared to other days and to maintain a life long list. The best thing about walking is the conversation that can take place during the outing. Maybe that’s because the adult is more apt to listen when they are short of breath from a vigorous hike.

Play in the snow. Whether it’s a season ticket at Durango Mountain Resort, or DMR, or a cheap sledding trip, snow brings out the kid in all of us, providing you plan ways to keep everybody warm and safe. A cheaper alternative to downhill skiing is Nordic skiing. DMR added a Nordic Center a few years ago and rentals and instruction are available for a fraction of the cost of downhill. Skinny skis are used on flatter terrain and require more cardiovascular ability.

Snowshoeing is another possibility for winter activity. Both snowshoes and cross-country skis can be rented from the San Juan College outdoor equipment shop located in the Health and Human Performance Center.

When choosing an activity in the snow don’t overlook the simple and cheap inner-tubing or plastic toboggan outing. Only a few inches of snow are needed and any north facing hill will retain those few inches for days after the white stuff has vanished on the flat ground. Be sure to pick a spot that is devoid of big rocks and trees for safety’s sake.

Jump in the saddle — bike saddle that is — and take advantage of our relatively mild and dry winters to ride the Glade or Alien Run trail systems. Contact the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, for maps and rules of public land usage.

Once again the River Walk — along the Animas River in Farmington — is a good place to start biking with younger children. The trails are wide, flat and bark filled. There is a lot to see and you can turn around and return to the vehicle as soon a youngster begins to tire.

According to a University of Illinois study, “interaction with nature has proven to reduce symptoms of ADD in children and of course it helps reduce childhood obesity.”

So do a kid — and yourself — a favor. Make a resolution to spend more time in the outdoors with your family and friends.

Source : http://www.daily-times.com/ci_19634712

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