Kids need time outside

By Silver Damsen

The League of Women Voters of Champaign County met Thursday to discuss No Child Left Inside, a bill recently passed in the House of Representatives and is now working its way through the Senate.

The two principal speakers were Sarah Livesay, president of the Environmental Education Association of Illinois, and Judy Miller, environmental program manager of Urbana Park District. The session was primarily information-based, instructing the public on the need for children’s outdoor time and suggesting ways for adults and their children to increase outdoor time.

No Child Left Inside began as a response to the more familiar No Child Left Behind Act. Proponents of No Child Left Inside argued that No Child Left Behind ignores the need for children to experience outdoor time because of its emphasis on passing standardized tests, Livesay said.

While research is increasingly showing the importance of being outside for people of all ages, especially for young children, most children are spending less and less time outside, Livesay said.

“We have always known that it is important for children to be outside,” Livesay said at the meeting. “Now we have the research to prove it.”

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Much of the scientific evidence used to support the idea that children need to play outside in a green and natural environment comes from the work of University researchers: professor of natural resources and environment science Frances Kuo and researcher Andrea Taylor.

“The outdoors and green space is restorative,” Livesay said at the meeting. “It charges you, just like you charge a cell phone.”

Taylor said that time spent outside is especially important for college students because they are constantly being forced to focus their attention in very direct ways. Time spent in nature allows them to relax and recharge.

“College students are chronically ‘attentionally fatigued,'” Taylor said. “And they do things that make it worse, such as intense social environments, TV and movies.”

Instead of continuing to over-stimulate their senses when they feel an inability to focus and concentrate, they should go for a nature walk, Taylor said.

“Being outside helps you heal,” said Anne Santoro, senior in ACES.

Unstructured outdoor activities can be one of the best ways for adults and children to incorporate more healthy outdoor time in their lives, Miller said.

“Plan an outside, do nothing day,” Miller said.