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Where Are Your Children?

By Mary C. Belknap, Ph.D., and Katie Potter

The sun is shining, the warmth is here…and where are the children of the world?

Hopefully outside enjoying the beauty with nature. Yes, believe it, the outside world

offers so much to our children’s development.

Sadly, children today do not have enough outside opportunities and it is taking a toll.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-

Deficit Disorder, maintains that this disconnect from the natural world is producing ill

effects in both mind and body. The lack of interaction between children and their

environment results in negative health effects on young children such as “childhood

obesity, asthma, attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and vitamin D

deficiency, all of which have increased in prevalence in the US over the past few

decades” (McCurdy et al. 2010, p. 201).

Also, while outside children show a different side of their personality.  Katie Potter sees

this firsthand while volunteering each week at her children’s school recess.  The

children run to get to the playground as soon as they come out of the school doors. 

They are eager to show off their skills and talents to fellow classmates, be it running,

kicking a ball, or climbing to the top of the slide.  There aren’t as many restrictions

outdoors as there are indoors.   Children have an open space to move, students get

along with each other better outdoors and enjoy different personalities beyond their

indoor classroom friends. 

There are many reasons children aren’t going outdoors as much as they should.  Most

parents work full-time.  To be honest, sometimes the last thing a parent wants to do

when arriving home is to go outside and play. House chores, dinner, laundry, and a long

list of other things need to be done by bedtime.  As Katie notes, of course, spending

time with my own children is most important and I must consider changing my mindset. 

Another reason for not going out or to the local parks is because of parents’ fear of an

accident like the possibility of interactions with strangers, vehicles, or fear of a child

running off.   Parents realize the importance of outdoor play, but social media and other

outlets highlight these fears more than the actual benefit of being outdoors.   Therefore,

parents and caregivers might keep their kids inside.  There’s a misconception that

parents need to occupy their children’s time or entertain them.   Adults just need to be

present.  They don’t have to hold their hand outside.  Let children run freely and watch

them become creative and enjoy the beauty of nature all around.

If a parent or caregiver wants to encourage or offer something to do outside there are

many, many activities. Beyond the traditional playground gym and swing equipment and

balls there are nature games. Nature Color Hunt, Nature Memory Game, Nature

Letters, and many more engaging activities are explained on the website below.

Children in some of our Jackson area schools can be involved with nature through

Grow Jackson. This nonprofit offers school children the opportunity to plant, grow and

care for food production in gardens. Grow Jackson’s primary mission is “To end food

insecurity and hunger for Jackson residents by increasing the availability of fresh food

and produce through food reclamation, community gardens, and improving

infrastructure for produce access.”

The original question, “Where are your children?” We ask this again. Let’s hope

Jackson children are outside having a great deal of fun and helping all areas of

their development.

Bento, Gabriela. 2017. ”The importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy

development.” Porto Biomed J. 2017 Sep-Oct; 2(5): 157–160.

Louv, R. 2005. Last Child in the Woods, New York City, NY: Algonquin Books.

McCurdy, L., K. Winterbottom, S. Mehta, and J. Roberts. 2010. ‘Using nature and

outdoor activity to improve children’s health.” Current problems in pediatric and

adolescent health care. 40(5) 102–117.

Treasure Hunt by Emily Grover

(Mary’s 16-year-old neighbor)

This activity was created recently to entertain Emily’s younger cousins outside. It was a huge success. The ideas can be adapted in a variety of ways.

You are as sweet as a treat,

and today just can’t be beat!

There are no ifs, ands, or buts,

so, we’d better run to Hinkley’s for do-____! (donuts)


Spending time with cousins is so much fun!

Our hunt is great, and we’re not done.

There’s no need to fight.

when the sun is so bright.

We can’t go after dark,

so right now, let’s drive to the ______! (park)


Today is the day for fun to overflow,

So, let’s get started with some play-___! (doh)


Don’t you worry, it’s not the end

if you hurry over to see our friend.

Straighten your hair,

get your hands in the air!

Just rap-a-tap-tap

on the door of Mrs. Bel_____! (Belknap)


What a day we’ve had, but don’t be sad!

Before we say good-bye

you’ve got a shirt that you can tie-___! (dye)


The next clue is a treat.

that can’t be beat!

As our treasure hunt ends,

We’re so glad we’ll always be friends!

You love me, and I love YOU!

But we won’t be blue - ‘cause we’re going to D__! (DQ)


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