BLANCO, Texas – Children who regularly play outside do better in school, are more content and have higher self esteem. This fall Blanco State Park will be offering outdoor classes to help expose young children and their families to the enormous benefits of being in nature.
According to research compiled by the Children and Nature Network (www.cnaturenet.org) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, children in this country have become less and less likely to spend time outside and more likely to spend time in front of a screen; American children between 8 and 18 today spend an average of 6.5 hours a day with a television, computer or video game (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005 and 2006). As children’s connection and time spent in nature has diminished, childhood ailments and medical problems have increased – childhood obesity rates for children age 6-11 have risen fourfold since 1971, type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents has skyrocketed from 2-4% before 1992 to 16% by 1994, and prescriptions for antidepressants for children have doubled in 5 years. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
Preschool Outdoors and Toddler Time are two new programs at Blanco State Park aimed at getting children and their parents comfortable with being outside and learning about the fun that can be had there. Twice a month each class will meet for 1 ½ – 2 hours of free and structured exploration. Classes will include getting to know trees, mammals, insects, water and rocks all in a fun, relaxed environment. Classes begin in September and only require the park entry fee of $4.00 for persons over age 13. Toddler Time will meet on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month and is for children age 1 – 3 years and their parent or guardian. Children will play outside, hear stories and meet animal friends. Preschool Outdoors will meet the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month and is for children ages 3 – 5 and their parent or guardian. Children will get comfortable with exploring nature and start making connections with the plants and animals they see. All classes are lead by Park Interpretive Ranger Mary Alice Partain.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Blanco State Park are committed to getting kids outside and enjoying the magic of the natural world around them. Positive direct experience in the out-of-doors and being taken by someone close to the child – a parent, grandparent, or other trusted guardian – are the two factors that most contribute to individuals choosing to take action to benefit the environment as adults. (Chawla, 2006).
For questions about Preschool Outdoors, Toddler Time or any other park program please contact Mary Alice Partain, 830-833-4333; firstname.lastname@example.org