Remember playing outside when you were a kid — venturing into nearby woods or field to look for a grasshopper, build a dam, have a snowball fight or try to catch a fish. Or maybe just to explore.
When was the last time your kid did those kinds of things?
For most kids, life is different these days. Parents seem more afraid of letting their kids out of sight, except for things like sports — structured, supervised events. Kids seem to have more demands placed on their time, and when they do have time they often prefer to "play" in front of a TV or computer screen. They don't get outdoors as much.
Health professionals are concerned. They point out all the benefits kids get from playing outside on their own, letting their imaginations run wild, challenging their bodies in new ways, developing social skills impossible to learn indoors in front of a TV. Kids have always needed that as part of growing up, and now they are not getting it enough.
Opportunities are fewer these days. As America has become more urban and less rural, people have fewer open spaces where they can roam and play — except on public lands.
Most Americans have a local park within easy reach. Some live within driving distance of a national forest or national park, where they can truly experience the outdoors. Whether in a remote wilderness area or in a spot of nature in the heart of the city, they can explore the woods, see wild animals, maybe catch a fish, maybe even pitch a tent and build a fire. They can touch and smell trees, see and hear wildlife, ponder the mystery of rivers, learn about America's outdoor treasures and the need to conserve them.
President Obama has issued a proclamation for the month of June as Great Outdoors Month. On June 13, the U.S. Forest Service is joining with the American Recreation Coalition and other partners to celebrate National Get Outdoors Day. We are hosting events at more than 50 locations across America to get kids outdoors for some fun — for some hiking, biking, fishing and more. To find out more, we invite you to visit www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org.
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Remember that sense of awe and wonder you felt as a kid in the woods, up close and personal with nature? There is no substitute for touching a pine cone, watching what ants do, listening to the cascade of a river or smelling a forest after it has rained. There is no substitute for assessing the risks of climbing a tree or crossing a creek and maybe skinning a knee and getting dirty.
Kids need these things. Isn't it time for some outdoor fun?
Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is hosting Utah's "Get Outdoors Day" from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday. Staff from the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest will be there to highlight outdoor activities in the forest.
Abigail R. Kimbell serves as chief of the U.S. Forest Service.