10/02/09 — Parks celebrate children's week

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Parks celebrate children's week

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on October 2, 2009 1:46 PM

National "Take a Child Outside" week may not be circled on the calendar in the same way that Thanksgiving and Christmas are, but that does not mean the occasion isn't worth recognizing.

What started as a simple initiative to get kids more involved in nature has become an international exercise in the outdoors since the program's inception in 2007. That year, the N.C. State Parks system started with a slogan and created a swell of support.

In an era that is quickly being defined by increasing legislation surrounding nearly all outdoor activities, the Take a Child Outside program has proven to be a simple, yet effective way to promote the outdoors at the most basic level.

"State parks have always been safe but exciting places for people to rediscover nature, offering miles of trails, free interpretive programs by rangers and museum-quality exhibits," said state parks director Lewis Ledford. "There are also many opportunities for children to explore independently."

The idea of designating an entire week for children's recreation originated with environmental educators at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. The idea was sparked by the book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. The book suggests that opportunities for children to explore forests, fields and wetlands are disappearing in favor of afternoons spent inside the house playing video games.

Louv's work illustrated what science has been suggesting for years.

Research has shown that engaging children in nature promotes learning, creativity and healthy lifestyles. Children who learn to play in natural settings are often more physically fit, score higher on tests and develop their ability to concentrate.

In order to allow parents and kids the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors together, several parks around the state are offering activities in the late afternoon hours ranging from park tours to astronomy lessons.

Aside from the pre-scheduled events, parents are encouraged to take the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful October weather by taking a night to camp or by spending a morning fishing.

A full list of activities going on this weekend at parks statewide can be found at www.ncparks.gov.