|For Immediate Release
August 20, 2007
Robin Crawford / Ruder Finn
10 WAYS TO UNLOCK THE FUN OF THE GREAT OUTDOORS WITH YOUR KIDS THIS FALL
Get Outdoors USA! Recommends These Activities to Get Kids Off the Couch, Away From the Computer, and into the Great Outdoors
Washington, D.C.— The summer’s heat has faded. The air feels crisp and refreshing. Leaves are turning gold, orange, and red. It’s finally fall and time for Get Outdoors USA!’s latest installment of fun-for-the-whole-family activities that’ll get your kids off the couch, away from the computer, and into the Great Outdoors.
There has been a substantial decrease in the amount of time kids spend outside, despite overwhelming evidence that suggests that getting outdoors provides life-long physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. Instead, children spend an average of 6.5 hours per day watching television and sitting at the computer, leading to physical inactivity and increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and other serious health concerns.
Parents and grandparents also benefit from time spent outdoors, so make it a family affair. According to various studies, adults who spend time outside and who participate in physical activity in their leisure time are healthier and may be able to reduce their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Begin your healthy lifestyle today and encourage the family to get outdoors this season. Here are 10 ways to explore and enjoy the Great Outdoors with your kids and grandkids this fall that are guaranteed to deliver great memories and healthy fun.
1. Kite Flying. Blustery fall days are ideal for kite flying. Kids will love the bright colors and fun designs, and the challenge of getting their kite to soar. A fun way to introduce your family to kite flying is by taking them to one of the many kite festivals planned all over the country this fall. Experts can help your kids pick out the best kite for beginners and show the family how to fly it. Get more info about kites and festival locations at the American Kitefliers Association’s website, http://www.aka.kite.org/
2. Visit a Farm. If you miss the days of exploring Grandpa’s farm, or you wish to experience life on the farm for the very first time, there is an answer—agritourism. Essentially any farm that encourages visits from the public is involved in agritourism, but most such farms cater to families and offer activities such as pumpkin picking, tractor rides, and milking cows. Your family will see first hand where their food comes from, as farmers demonstrate how they make or grow their products. Certain farms even offer camping, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing. Many agritourism farms are open 365 days a year, but others are only open for a few weekends in the fall, so take advantage of this autumn’s harvest and visit a farm soon! To find a farm near you, visit http://www.agritourismworld.com/
3. Apple Picking. If agritourism sounds fun, try apple picking. August through October, apples are ready to be harvested, so bring your family down to the orchard and pick a bushel each. Apple picking provides your family with a healthy day in the fresh air, many fantastic photo opportunities, and most of all, the joy of bringing home fruit that you’ve picked yourself. There are apple orchards all over the country, even Alaska, so you’re sure to find one that’s open to the public near you. Your family may end up picking more apples than they can eat, so use up any extras and bake an apple pie. Bring it to your local homeless shelter to share some autumn cheer. Find an apple orchard near you at http://www.applejournal.com/trail.htm
4. Google Earth. Modern technology brings our nation’s geography right to our fingertips. You can explore Yosemite National Park and then the Great Lakes in a matter of seconds. How? By using Google Earth, a free program that offers satellite images of everywhere on the planet and includes additional photos and facts about cities and other places of interest. Your children can zoom in and see their own house’s rooftop and what wilderness is nearby to explore, or they can discover the Grand Canyon 1,000 miles away. Browse Google Earth together and start planning your next family vacation. Google Earth is sure to inspire a trip into the Great Outdoors. Download Google Earth from http://earth.google.com/
6. Sensory Walk. Satisfy all five senses with a sensory walk through the woods. Sight. See the fiery autumn colors. Have your eyes follow a hawk flying overhead. Take photos of all the beautiful nature you see. Sound. Hear a raven caw. Count the steady beat of crickets chirping. Listen to a babbling brook. Record a nature soundtrack on a portable digital sound recorder. Touch. Squish velvety, moist moss. Rub stones smoothed by a river. Crunch dry leaves in your fingers. Smell. Close your eyes and inhale the crisp fall air. Take in the smell of soil, water, and air that you normally wouldn’t notice. Taste. Enjoy a delicious picnic under a tree. For your family to get the most out of a sensory walk, bring along binoculars, a magnifying glass, a camera, and a digital sound recorder.
7. Nordic Walking. A brisk fall day is perfect for hiking, and with the leaves turning, the trails are a lovely place to be. Hiking might intimidate children who spend their free time in front of the television, so tempt them with Nordic walking, a new trend that makes hiking easier by using two poles (imagine rubber-bottomed ski poles) that increase stability and evenly distribute weight. Use a virtual pedometer (http://www.webwalking.com/googlemap.htm) to map a route and track your distance. For more information on Nordic Walking, visit http://anwa.us/, the American Nordic Walking Association’s website, and to find a trail near you, try http://www.localhikes.com/
8. Stargazing. There are few better ways to appreciate the majesty of the Great Outdoors than looking at the vast, brilliant night sky. The fall is one of the best times of the year for stargazing. The sky is clear and the earth’s orbit is inline for spectacular astronomical displays. For beginner stargazing, you only need the basics: a rural location away from city lights, binoculars (optional), blankets, and your family. For a better idea of what you’re looking at, have your kids go online and print out images of constellations visible in the fall (i.e., Pegasus, the flying horse, and Perseus, the hero). Each year around Oct. 21 and Nov. 18, there are meteor showers visible to the naked eye, which means that there will be enough shooting stars for everyone to wish on. Learn about stars and find more information about astronomical events at http://stardate.org/.
9. Leaf Memories. Leaf and flower pressing has been a tradition for years, but now with modern technology, you can put a new spin on this arts and crafts classic. As the leaves begin to turn, help your kids pick the most beautiful specimens. Snap photos of the family outside with your digital camera. Then, fire up the family scanner, place a leaf on the machine, and upload its image. With your kids, research the names of their leaves on the Internet. Use a program such as Microsoft Publisher to create a fall scrapbook with the images of the leaves and the photos you took of your family. Print the album out on card stock, bind it with an autumn-colored ribbon, and encourage your children to share their memories with their friends and other family members. A beautiful nature memory book can be done as new leaves and flowers appear throughout the year.
10. Volunteering. We all must do our best to protect the beauty and sanctity of our public lands so that there is always a beautiful place to be outdoors. One way to contribute to the greater good while enjoying the outdoors with your family is to participate in one of the many short or long-term volunteer projects going on at local National and State Parks. Such an opportunity provides healthy physical activity in our country’s most serene places and encourages a sense of compassion for nature. Volunteer projects include trail and campsite maintenance, archeology, construction, removal of invasive species and many more. For volunteer opportunities that you can experience with your family this fall in your area, visit http://www.volunteer.gov/gov/ or Take Pride in America’s website, http://www.takepride.gov/index.cfm
For many more fun things to do with your family outdoors visit www.getoutdoorsusa.org
Get Outdoors USA! is a national movement dedicated to helping children live healthy, active outdoor lives. Through outdoor activity children receive benefits of mind, body and spirit and are able to experience the national treasures that belong to all Americans. The American Recreation Coalition launched Get Outdoors USA! in April 2007. More information about the organization is available at www.getoutdoorsusa.org