Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kai's Voice — Why I Care About Nature

"I like nature because it is nice.  I like to hear the birds and see the nice back country plants and coyotes and foxes.  I like to climb rocks and make stone tools.  I like sleeping in a tent.  When I am in nature I feel happy and free. My body feels good."

7 years old
San Diego

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kids' Voices – Why I Care About Nature

I am starting a Kids' Voices series on this blog, and I want to start with several posts containing children’s thoughts on the topic Why I Care About Nature.  If there is a child in your life that would like to share his or her thoughts, I would love to receive them.  It doesn't have to be long—even a couple sentences would be fantastic.  There are no wrong answers, and over the next several months, I hope to share the voices of kids from all over the place, kids with a wide variety of world views.  I would love to hear from the kids in your life!  If possible please include a photo of the child in an outdoor setting, along with a first name, city and age (I promise not to post last names, addresses or other such personal information).  You can send me this information at

As you know, this blog is a relatively new project.  I want to grow it into something meaningful over the next several years, so I am very open to any suggestions or constructive criticism you might have. 

Thank you!

J. S. Kapchinske is the author of Coyote Summer.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Kids, Nature and Physical Health

Intuitively, we all know that playing outside is healthy for kids.  It just feels right.  And scientific research has repeatedly demonstrated that there is a clear link between the amount of time children spend outdoors and their overall well-being.

It’s easy to understand how running across the lawn, climbing a tree, and swimming in the local water hole help our children maintain a healthy weight while building muscle and bone.  But there are more subtle physical benefits as well.  For example, children who spend significant time outdoors—playing amidst logs, rocks, and uneven ground—develop better coordination, balance and agility.  And outdoor activity in natural environments has even been linked to improvements in conditions like asthma and nearsightedness.

Unfortunately, many kids aren’t getting out there enough.  Pediatric health professionals believe that kids need at least 60 minutes of active play every day to stay healthy.  But the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition finds that only one in three children are physically active every day—and many of those that are active are not getting a full 60 minutes of vigorous play. 

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is a global health problem—one of the leading causes of death and disability around the globe.  Childhood obesity affects 17% or 12.5 million American Children, which isn’t surprising given that the average child now spends more than seven and a half hours a day sitting in front of a television or computer screen.  Two-thirds of American children can’t pass a basic physical, and 40% of boys and 70% of girls can’t manage more than a single pull-up.  A full 40% of American kids show early signs of heart and circulation problems.  Yikes!

But here at Mud On Your Feet we can help change that.  It’s easy.  It’s fun.

I want to share a few really great tools with you, tools that can help you get moving with the kids you love.  These tools will help you find nearby places to let your kids play, and they’ll help you come up with fun things to do while you’re there.

I’ve mentioned Discover the Forest before.  This site provides two great resources—Where to Go and What to Do.  Where to Go is a user-friendly search tool for finding fun places to play outside.  Just enter your zip code or search the map to find National Forests and Parks, State Forests and Parks, community parks, playgrounds, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and more.  What to Do is a treasure trove of fun activities, games, projects, and programs aimed at getting kids outside.

The National Wildlife Federation provides a tool called Nature Find, which is similar to Discover the Forest’s Where to Go site.  Just search the map to find great parks, trails and other nature sites.

Finally, KaBOOM! provides a Map of Play to help you find community playgrounds.  This is a great tool to find places for your kids to get their wiggles out when you’re travelling, and you might even find new playgrounds in your own neighborhood.

In the words of James Sallis, Ph.D., Program Director of the Active Living Research Program for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Based on previous studies, we can definitely say that the best predictor of preschool children’s physical activity is simply being outdoors, and that an indoor, sedentary childhood is linked to mental health problems.”

So get outside, my friends.  Grab a kid you love.  Hold her hand.  Run.  Climb something.  Throw something.  Swim.  Get mud on your feet!

A BIG thank you to Mud On Your Feet readers that have shared photos of their kids in nature.  I love the pictures.  Please keep them coming!

J. S. Kapchinske is the author of Coyote Summer.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Great Article by Richard Louv

This is the opening paragraph from a great article by Richard Louv, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Children and Nature Network.
Young people care about the future, and many are leaders in the fight against global warming. Organizations such as Energy Action Coalition have galvanized thousands of students in an impressive effort to build what it calls “the youth clean energy and climate movement.” The success of future environmentalism also depends on connecting more people personally to the natural world. Especially children.
To read the entire article on the Children and Nature Network blog click here.