Parents, get your kids outside to play

After an unusually long and cold winter, we are finally getting some nice spring weather.

But according to the Des Moines Register on Monday,

officials with the Polk County Health Department and Polk County Conservation are concerned that many kids will stay in front of the TV.

The two agencies have teamed up to combat what they say is the increasing threat of "nature-deficit disorder."

Author Richard Louv identified the term in his 2005 book, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder." Louv describes it as the consequences of children being alienated from nature.

Health risks from avoiding the outdoors include obesity and a lack of creativity, said Rick Kozin, spokesman for the Polk County Health Department.

The solution is in our own backyards and neighborhoods, Kozin said. "It's a health issue with a conservation treatment."

The role of parents in getting kids outdoors is key, Kozin said. "Children will follow the lead from their parents."

The Register's article includes 15 ideas for getting kids in touch with nature, so click the link if you are interested.

It's tempting to try to keep your kids occupied indoors so that you can get chores done around the house (or spend too much time on your computer). But it's so important for kids to get exercise outdoors, especially if they are not in school, where recess and P.E. class may be outdoors in good weather.

Any teacher can tell you how much easier it is for kids to learn, and how much better they behave, after they've been able to run around outdoors.

According to Dr. Paul Fleiss, a pediatrician, getting exercise with exposure to natural light in the morning helps children sleep better at night (the sunlight triggers brain chemicals that help establish circadian rhythms).

You can learn more about that in Dr. Fleiss's book, "Sweet Dreams," which is a good and easy read. Or, just read this article, which is a condensed version of the advice in his book.

Parents, get your kids outside to play this week, even if it's just for a walk around your neighborhood.

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