Stewardship: Fairfax County’s Family Backyard Initiative
The plan was to dig a hole in the backyard to China. However, as soon as the first worm turned up, the adventure became a worm hunt. Until a butterfly flittered past. It begged to be caught, but kept teasing with its dips and darts over the flowers. Watch out for bees, they sting. Are there any bears here?
Backyards are a natural world of adventure to children. Backyards are ball fields, ships, mountains, jungles, the moon, or any other place you can imagine. And kids do imagine those places in their yards. They also learn about nature while they play in a backyard, and nature is the most, well, natural of teachers in the outdoors.
But kids aren’t getting outdoors to learn. A University of Michigan study says children spend only one percent of their time outdoors. A University of Rochester study reveals that being in nature reduces stress in kids and, in simple terms, makes them nicer people.
So you’re invited to be nicer and to come out to nature in your own backyard. If you don’t have a backyard, you probably have a park nearby where you can be part of the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Family Backyard initiative. Its goal: go outside and play in nature. Everything’s right there in your backyard, where you’ll find sticks, rocks, trees, dirt, flowers, mud, and water – all of the important necessities for fun. Add kids, turn them loose without any formal goals, and watch the imaginations soar and the discoveries mount. Nature play works best when the children are in charge and making the decisions. The more time they get outdoors, the more they grow and develop in healthy ways while fostering a love of nature.
Need some fresh ideas to get started? We’ve got some. Even if you’re a veteran of the outdoors and you know your backyard well, the Family Backyard initiative can suggest fun, effective ways to promote building wildlife and family-friendly backyards. By providing requirements such as water, shelter, food and stewardship, you can manage your backyard and make it more welcoming to wildlife and kids. To get some new ideas or to get started, click here. Don’t spend a lot of time on that website, though. Remember, you’re supposed to be outside playing.
Written by Dave Ochs, stewardship communications manager