It's getting closer to spring and time to plant some gardens and some ideas. What better would be an event that connects both?

The annual Teddy Bear PThe annual Teddy Bear Picnic in Hampton Park does just that. On Sunday, the fourth annual picnic by the Charleston Parks Conservancy wants to teach children about the greater outdoors, get them out in nature and, of course, repair those teddy bears that have been well-loved over the winter.

This free event is one to encourage parents to get outside with their kids, smell the roses (a few may be blooming, but there are plenty of other early flowers out there) and reconnect with nature.

According to just about every resource I know, the childhood obesity rate has doubled in children and tripled in teens in the past 30 years. A report from the National Wildlife Federation finds that children spend half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago and more than six hours a day connected to electronic media.

That means Dick and Jane are cuddling with Teddy but not running around outside with Spot. (Even Spot is having trouble with obesity.)

There are plenty of good reasons this happens, but it's a shame that children aren't going out in the backyard to play army, scooting around their neighborhoods on skates and skateboards, or even in the front drive playing hula hoop or jumping rope.

Many never know what it's like to get a little dirty, to plant a tomato and watch it grow while keeping an eagle eye out for nature's bugs and small creatures who want a bite before it's ripe.

Charleston has a vast network of more than 120 parks and green spaces with many in urban areas. And, of course, nature in Charleston is also easily accessible; just head out to the beach or take a walk in some nearby woods.

Which is a way of saying that with all of our natural resources, many kids are not loving where they live, both indoors and out.

“The purpose of the Teddy Bear Picnic is to provide a free opportunity for children to see how much fun it can be to spend time outdoors,” says Neves Richards, volunteer director for the conservancy. “We hope, in addition to creating a last memory, we're instilling in children a love of the outdoors and a lifelong connection to parks.”

And the Teddy Bear Picnic is going to be fun. Activities include face-painting, seed planting, storytelling, cookie decorating, crafts and a Teddy Care Station for “injured” bears. John Cusatis will provide music, and other entertainment will include dancing and hula hooping. Food will be available for purchase, or families may bring a picnic.

The picnic runs 1-4 p.m. Sunday in Hampton Park, rain or shine. And it wraps up with a Teddy Bear parade for all to enjoy and participate in. It's a great free way to enjoy the afternoon with the kids in one of Charleston's premier parks just as all of nature is beginning to bloom.

To volunteer at the event, contact Richards at

Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or