Enjoy Local Nature With Your Family

Year round, more families are taking to the great outdoors for fun activities. Whether for economic reasons or a desire to unplug from the world of computers and video games, parents are increasingly turning to local parks, wildlife outings and outdoor sports.

While children are born with a curiosity about the natural world, more and more, digital media is absorbing young peoples' time, say experts. In fact, research from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates kids are absorbing more than seven hours of media content daily.

"We need to capitalize on the latest digital trends to help us spark a curiosity among students in outdoor activities," says Mary Rollins, vice president of educational partnerships of Discovery Education.

Parents who want to encourage natural curiosity need to stimulate children's interest at an early age. Exploring nature can be done inexpensively and close to home.

Local Wonders
One of the great beauties of America is its geographical diversity: from mountains to lakes, deserts to waterfalls, and canyons to plains. State parks abound with diverse wonders and offer many activities for youngsters, such as boating, fishing and camping. You can search locations online at ExploreTheBlue.com, TakeMeFishing.org, or nps.gov.

"Parents and teachers need to stimulate children's natural interest in the outdoors and lead by example. Simply getting outside together to explore can inspire a new generation of boaters and anglers," says Frank Peterson, President and CEO of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.

Actively Involve Kids
Once you get kids outdoors, here are some ways to stimulate curiosity:
 Let them lead. You may be tempted to lead explorations of the woods, but children are more likely to enjoy the outdoors if they have some say in their experience. Whether for exercise or quiet reflection, let them choose and develop their own relationship to nature. 

Create maps. Have kids create a map of your outdoor excursion area and track where you go and what you see along the way to compare different habitats within an ecosystem. 

Enter contests together that encourage outdoor activities. For example, TakeMeFishing.org and Discovery Education have launched a digital program called "Explore the Blue" and an essay contest for elementary schoolchildren. Kids need to write a short essay describing their favorite fishing or boating experience and submit a picture or photo for a chance to win a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park and a $250 gift card. 

Encourage kids to draw or write about what they see in a journal. Or create a scrapbook to categorize your adventures on land or water, and have children research their floral and animal spotting.

 Build boats. Create model boats using different materials, then test them out on the water for a fun activity that will teach the basics of buoyancy, water displacement, surface area and boat design.

For more information on fun outdoor activities for kids, visit ExploreTheBlue.com.

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