“By the time most children go to kindergarten, they have spent more than 5,000 hours in front of a television, enough time to earn a college degree.” — Indiana University
If that figure doesn’t stop you in your tracks, nothing will. That kids spend that much time at an early age indoors means they are not exploring their backyards, inventing silly games, observing squirrels and bugs, and, yes, chewing on a few grass stems while they look for animal shapes in the clouds.
Many American children are losing their connection to nature because they just don’t go outdoors.
So the National Wildlife Federation has created the Great American Backyard Campout on June 22 as a way to encourage kids and their parents to just hang out in a homemade tent, cook some hot dogs over a campfire and run into the house the minute it gets dark.
Like many great events these days, there’s a social media component to the campout.
You can register your kids or your team for the campout and raise money to help the wildlife federation in its efforts to connect kids with nature.
They use 80 cents of every dollar raised for programs that address the problem of America’s indoor childhood and the health risks associated with that.
The campout website at www.nwf.org/Great-American- Backyard-Campout.aspx has some great ways that you and your kids can create a webpage for your campout and invite people to donate or join.
But if you really want to disconnect, don’t take the iPad or cellphone to the backyard and feel compelled to tweet about it.
Instead, make some S’Mores, pigs in a blanket or singing apples.
Did you know that if you place an apple on a cooking stick and roast it over hot coals until the peel starts to split, the apple “sings.” Then carefully remove the peel and roll the apple in a cinnamon-sugar mixture for one of those hot, gooey treats.
Or tell scary stories. Remember, the little ones get scared easily, but you may have to work harder for 8-year-olds.
Start with something real, such as your neighborhood. Mention things like local landmarks and stories you’ve heard from the neighbors. You want to keep your audience guessing about whether the story is real or not.
Then use your very best karaoke voice. Add dramatic pauses and know how you’re going to end the tale or you will get lost in the story itself.
Or if you aren’t a good storyteller, do a round-robin story where each person adds a few lines of the story and it gets so outrageous that everyone is laughing hysterically and trying to remember how it started.
If you decide to build a Boy Scout fire, make sure you know how to do it first, and be certain that all the ashes are completely out afterward.
You might check with your neighborhood association or fire department if you want to build an open fire because those are not allowed in some neighborhoods.
That might mean you take your camping adventure to one of the parks that allow camping. Otherwise, you can use your outdoor grill for those tasty treats.
And don’t forget the bug spray. While the goal is to get close to nature, there are a few mosquitoes you don’t need to get THAT close to.
If you can’t do a campout on June 22 but still want to be connected to the event, you can go camping anytime until July 31. Register on the site for free.
Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.