I remember spending many a summer night sleeping in a large, blue tent in the backyard of my childhood best friend’s house. Though we ran in and out of the house all evening for bathroom and Popsicle breaks, when it got dark, we crawled in the tent with our flashlights to play games and read. We didn’t need the TV, X-Box or Internet. We had the outdoors and lots of fireflies to catch.
I spent my summers riding four-wheelers and horses, jumping off the rope swing at the local swimming hole, picking wild blackberries at the creek, playing softball, and many other fun adventures we dreamed up. Our one caveat? “Be home before dark.” Those times have changed, however.
I’m not sure why; some say it’s parents’ fears for their children’s safety, but kids don’t play outdoors anymore. In fact, children spend more than seven hours a day in front of an electronic screen. Indiana University East found, “By the time most children go to kindergarten, they have spent more than 5,000 hours in front of a television—enough time to earn a college degree.” Children born after 1990 are being called Generation I. I standing for perhaps Generation Internet or Generation Indoors. It is negatively affecting our children, too. Childhood obesity, depression and ADHD rates have soared over the last decade. Experts have found that children who spend unstructured time outdoors have better attention spans, decreased aggression, enhanced creativity, and do better in school.
The National Wildlife Federation has found a way to help solve this problem by establishing the Be Out There campaign that encourages children to spend more time outdoors. The conservation organization has a three-year goal to get 10 million children outside. On the NWF’s website, you can sign a pledge saying you will do your part to get your children outside.
As part of their effort, every year the NWF plans a nationwide fund-raising event called the Great American Backyard Campout. This year, the ninth annual event will be on Saturday, June 22. The activity works much like a charity walk event. You create a camping team, register your team on the Great American Backyard Campout site and then raise money to go toward the NWF’s Be Out There program. Eighty cents of every dollar raised goes toward establishing and maintaining programs dedicated to getting children outside. You don’t have to fundraise to participate; the organization suggests a $10 flat donation.
Fun things to do while camping:
- Learn wilderness survival skills
- Bird and wildlife observation
- Eating S’Mores!
If you would like to venture out further than the backyard, check out freecampsites.net. The website will help you find free and discounted campgrounds.
Why not take your family camping this year, even if it is just in the backyard? For more about camping, read the following blog posts: