It’s amazing the amount of money spent each year on toys and activities to keep kids busy. Even more alarming, is the percentage of that total that’s spent on electronic items that require nothing more than sitting on ones butt and moving a few fingers.  A better way to keep young minds and bodies active is to promote large muscle activity, and one way to do this is to encourage kids to play outside.  The cost?  Perhaps a rubber ball, some sidewalk chalk, a jump-rope, a magnifying glass, a butterfly net or bug house, a wheeled vehicle (without a motor!), or just the room to hop, skip, and jump.

Now I know it’s hard to compete with those electronic babysitters.  But the great thing about nature is that it’s entertaining, stimulating, educational, and good for mind and body. Nature can teach children the basics of science, economics, and creativity right in their backyard, at the local park, or on a walk deep into the woods.

With rare exceptions, exploring nature is usually generally free. It may mean going out in your backyard, local park, or perhaps going to the local nature center or state park (which usually have low cost fees or memberships). This way, you don’t have to pay for expensive toys, jungle gyms, or memberships to expensive entertainment centers, but you still get the benefit of stimulating and educational play.

Spending time outside lends itself to a world of exploration. The simple act of finding a bug and spending time studying its movements, habits, etc., make for a enriched learning experience.  Share in this time with your child and search for additional creatures and discover what’s growing under foot or flying over heat.  There are lessons for kids of all ages to discover about the world around them, we just need to create the time to find them.

It may help the world. Learning more about our environment lends itself to being more environmentally conscious. What better way to help do your part than to get your children interested in their own planet than right now when they’re young and impressionable? What might be a fun time for them now, might be a future hobby, career, or world saving invention.

It’s fun. While it’s easy to forget, childhood isn’t just for learning about how to be an adult, it’s also about having fun. Nature gives kids a chance to use their imagination and be free to just be kids.

It’s a bit disconcerting that the government has to spend millions of dollars to remind us that we need to get our kids outside to learn from nature and to keep them healthy and active. Time to push back from the electronic monsters that we’ve allowed to take over our lives and spend more time outside.  It’s there that children’s minds can develop and we can all benefit from the glory that is nature but only if you disconnect from the electronic world as well. There’s nothing sadder than watching a child try to interact with a parent whose interest is in the electronic device in their hand and not on their child.  Believe me, there will be plenty more shiny electronic devices to take your breath away in the future, but your child will be grown before you know it.  I’m pretty sure it will be moments that you shared with your child that you remember and not the hours you spent with your device.

Now, get outside!