by: Ashley Osborne, 4-H youth development specialist
Spring and its warmer weather is just around the corner. Now is the time to start getting your young people outdoors and letting them experience Mother Nature as she awakes from her winter slumber.
Youth can receive numerous benefits from getting outdoors and into nature. Sunlight exposure can help reduce nearsightedness and increase vitamin D levels. Playing outdoors also increases young people’s physical activity which helps reduce their risk for 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 youth who regularly interact with their natural environment are better communicators, better cooperators and misbehave less than their peers. Learning in nature requires young people to pay attention to the environment around them. This unique teaching method helps youth focus better once they return to the classroom. Nature also promotes a hands-on learning environment, which can lead to improved academics for young people.
You can encourage your young person to spend more time outdoors in many different ways. Here are some ideas:
∙ Plant a garden filled with all kinds of different vegetables or flowers.
∙ Make it educational. Teach your child about different trees, plants and bugs that live in your yard.
∙ Weather permitting, set aside a time after school each day for outdoor playtime and exploration.
∙ Take a walk or a hike. Many Kentucky communities have made advancements over the years to increase their walk-ability and built environment. Take advantage of local trails or, on the weekends, go explore one of the numerous beautiful trails found in the state’s parks, nature preserves and arboretums.
In Kentucky 4-H, our programming allows us to get youth outside through a variety of different ways. Many of our counties have outdoor clubs that explore local environments. Many of our projects encourage youth to get outdoors and pay attention to and collect information from their natural environment. We also host the ever popular summer camps.
For more information about 4-H programs that explore nature, contact the Edmonson County Extension office at 270-597-3628.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.