Summer and warm weather are upon us. Now is the time to start taking young people outside and introducing them to Mother Nature.
Young people can derive many benefits from the outdoors and nature. Sun exposure can help reduce myopia and increase vitamin D levels. Playing outdoors also increases physical activity, which helps reduce the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
Exploring nature can also help young people improve their relationship skills and reduce stress, anger and aggression. Research has shown that young people who regularly interact with their natural environment are better communicators, better cooperators and behave less badly than their peers. Learning in nature forces young people to pay attention to the environment around them. This unique teaching method helps young people to concentrate better once they return to class. Nature also promotes a hands-on learning environment, which can lead to better academics.
There are a number of ways you can encourage young people to spend more time outdoors. Here are some ideas:
• Plant a garden full of all kinds of different vegetables or flowers.
• Make it educational. Teach your child about the different trees, plants and insects that live in your garden.
• Weather permitting, set aside time each day after school to play and explore outdoors.
• Take a walk or hike. Many Kentucky communities have increased their walkability and built environment. Take advantage of local trails, or on weekends, explore one of the many beautiful trails found in state parks, nature preserves, and arboretums.
At Kentucky 4-H, our programming allows us to get kids out in a variety of ways. Many of our counties have outdoor clubs that explore local environments. Many of our projects encourage young people to get outside and pay attention to their natural environment and gather information. We also run the ever popular summer camps.
For more information about 4-H programs that explore nature, contact the Trimble County Extension office.
Source: Ashley Osborne, 4-H Youth Development Specialist
Ralph Hance is the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Officer for 4-H and Youth Development.