Even President Obama Has Trouble Getting His Kids Outside

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If you don’t think you have anything in common with the President of the United States, think again.  Wednesday night, on February 16, 2011, President Barack Obama, had this to say at the launch of the America’s Great Outdoors report at the White House:

“These days, our lives are only getting more complicated, more busy, and we’re glued to our phones and our computers for hours on end.  I have to — Michelle and I, we’re constantly having to monitor our kids, get outside.  Turn off the TV.  Put away the Skype.  (Laughter.)  Cars and buses shuttle us from one place to another.  We see our kids spending more and more time on the couch.  For a lot of folks, it’s easy to go days without stepping on a single blade of grass.”

Hopefully that will change as the America’s Great Outdoors action plan is implemented throughout the country. The plan will include the following initiatives to get kids more green time instead of screen time.

  • Improve federal capacity for recruiting, training, and managing volunteers and volunteer programs to create a new generation of citizen stewards and mentors.
  • Support community-based efforts to increase access to outdoor recreation.
  • Promote and support replicable programs that teach about and connect children and families with their natural and cultural heritage.

This is extremely encouraging as the “indoor childhood” phenomenon in our nation continues to grow.

In the last year the top government officials in the United States have also acknowledged the growing disconnect between our children, youth and families with nature.  Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to the report itself, submitted by the heads of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality:

“The outdoors has increasingly lost its relevance in the lives of our children, who now spend only half as much time outside as their parents did, but who spend an average of seven hours a day using electronic devices. Studies show that access to the outdoors can help reverse the obesity epidemic that has tripled among our children in the last generation. They show that time spent in nature can reduce stress and anxiety, promote learning and personal growth, and foster mental and physical health.”

And if the President and agency heads are not enough, First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move Outside last June where she said:

“…If  adults here can just think back to when we were growing up, back then an hour of just vigorous activity was nothing, because we didn’t call it “activity.”  It wasn’t required.  We called it “play.”  We had recess, we had gym class at school, and when we got home in the afternoons our parents didn’t want to be bothered with us so they kicked us outside…  But all of that was really good for us..  And too many of our kids end up spending way too much time inside in front of the TV, playing video games…. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that today nearly one third of our children in this country are overweight or obese.”

I encourage you to take a look at the America’s Great Outdoors report and the Let’s Move Outside website, and consider how you might get involved in these initiatives. You can also read the Outdoors Alliance for Kids response to the report and learn more about other policy initiatives to reconnect kids with nature.