Go Play Outside

Of course, the best way to help your kiddos appreciate and enjoy nature is to put them in it. But don't just shoo them out the door. Participate in green, outdoor activities with them so you can spend quality time as a family and teach them to value the big, wide world.

Outside fun also helps kids get and stay physically fit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16% of U.S. children aged 6-19 are overweight or obese—that's triple the rate from 1980. Active kids also have higher self-esteem and get fewer chronic illnesses. Yet the average American child spends over three hours each day watching TV—that's 20% of the time they're awake! Playing outside with your kids is good for your health, too. Remember: The family that's green together gets lean together.

Here are some outdoor activities the whole family can enjoy:

• Take a hike. Or a walk. Or a bike ride. You'll get some fresh air and exercise while spending time together.

• Have a picnic. Let the kids help you make and pack the food. Use recyclable wrappings like aluminum foil and washable or biodegradable plates and utensils made from stuff like corn and sugar cane instead of petrochemical-based plastic.

^^ Don't throw biodegradable things in the trash—they'll hang around for years in a landfill. Toss them in a compost pile (page 191) instead, where they'll get enough oxygen to decompose quickly.

• Play games. Think of the outdoor games you enjoyed playing as a kid, and teach them to your children, or ask them to show you their favorite games. Tag, kickball, hide-and-seek, softball, duck-duck-goose, hopscotch, badminton—there are endless backyard games to play with your kids.

• Tend a garden. Planting and taking care of plants with your children is fun and rewarding. Whether it's a flower garden that adds beauty to your home or a vegetable garden to teach them where food comes from, gardening puts taking care of the earth into action. Flip to page 191 for tips on organic gardening.

^^ If you don't have space for a garden, grow plants in flowerpots and other containers. Kids love watching seeds turn into shoots and then blossom or bear fruit.

• Watch birds. Put up a birdfeeder and let the kids help keep it filled. Keep binoculars handy so kids can get a closer look without disturbing the birds.

• Visit a nature center. These places have staff (usually volunteers) who are trained to get kids interested in and teach them about nature and the environment. Look for special activities that appeal to your child.

• Earn TV time through other activities. To keep kids off the couch, limit the amount of TV they can watch each day. But you don't want them to think that turning off the tube is a punishment—if they do, they may resent whatever activity you have in mind to replace TV-watching. So try setting up a formula where they can earn their TV time: Each hour spent playing outside, reading, helping around the house, for example, earns half an hour of TV or video games. Your kids may even have so much fun playing outside that they forget all about TV.

Organic Gardening Tips

Organic Gardening Tips

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