Despite the recent weather, October is the perfect time to get outside and celebrate Maryland’s official state exercise — walking! Officially, yesterday was Walk Maryland Day with events planned across the state, but all month offers opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fall.
Walking offers many health benefits, and among them getting out in nature can improve your mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, spending time outdoors can lead to improved attention, lowered stress, better moods, and even increased empathy and cooperation.
Maryland offers ample places to get out and spend time in nature, from state parks to local trails, and we’ve collected a list of localities where everyone can work on improving their physical, mental and emotional health, just by taking a walk amongst the trees.
To find the list of walking trails by county, go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/walktober and click on “County Walking Opportunities.” Also find more information about Walktober, how you can become a walk leader, or join in next year’s celebration.
I recently learned that the first Saturday of every month is National Play Outside Day! As someone whose family loves to get together and play games in the back yard, I think it is great that there is a day specifically set aside to remind everyone to enjoy playing outside. As the weather gets warmer, there are more and more options for places we can go and activities we can do outside. So, set a reminder for yourself on the first Saturday of every month (like this upcoming Saturday May 7th) and head outside for some fun!
Playing outside was a big part of my childhood and something that I still enjoy. When I was younger, my siblings and I would scour my mother’s gardens for ingredients we could use to create our pretend delicacies. I will always appreciate my mother’s tolerance of our pulling up her plants for our make-believe games! As we got older, we would play games like kick the can, capture the flag, and more. Some in my family might even tell you that the games would get so competitive that some might have cheated in order to win, but those allegations were never proven. Kick-The-Can was actually a game designed to be played as it started to get dark because we would regularly play well into the evening. Even now, my family and I love to get together for some outdoor games like cornhole. On one occasion, we even made a homemade outdoor putt-putt course in the backyard!
If you are interested in getting outside to play but aren’t sure what to do, here are some ideas to get you started! Keep in mind that, especially for kids, part of the fun is in being creative and coming up with your own games and rules. So, try these ideas to get started, and then see if you can come up with your own even more creative ideas!
One thing you can do is create your own scavenger hunt or competition. You could send everyone out in search of the coolest rock or biggest leaf. If you have sports equipment, you could also see who can come up with the best trick shot (with any ball and container you have available). You can use that same sports equipment to create a totally new game! Get out everything you have and then see if you can come up with new ways to use those things for a different game. It can be even more fun if you create your own weird rules. Don’t get hung up on the details, just get outside and find something fun you can play!
One last thing before we get outside and play, please consider safety as well. Playing outside is fun, but we want to ensure that we stay safe too!
Pay attention to the weather. If the weather is too hot, you’ll want to consider playing at a cooler time of day. Also, summer storms can come on suddenly. Know what to do if it starts to look stormy.
If it is sunny, make sure you are protecting yourself! Wear sunscreen or sun protective clothing to make sure you don’t get burned. Also, make sure you have water so that you can stay hydrated.
I hope you get to get your creativity flowing and enjoy some time outside in honor of National Play Outside Day!
We have learned over time that it is humans who are the main factor of environmental problems. Various natural disasters and diseases caused by climate changes showed that humans, animals, and nature are intertwined together. The concept of One Health reflects this perspective. One Health indicates that people’s health is closely related to animal and environmental health as well.
Since people-animal-environments affect each other, protecting animals and the environment for our well-being has become an essential notion. In this era, it is the current children who can change the future world with this perspective. Therefore, leaving a pragmatic process to naturally learn and act on the One Health concept is the role of adults and what we can do is to keep children interested in nature and animals. In this digital era, children interact with nature and animals on their devices, and are unable to feel all the senses that nature gives. They cannot naturally learn the role and importance of nature without touching actual animals and plants.
Therefore, adults should provide children with as many opportunities to experience nature as possible. It is not a nature exploration activity aimed at “education” (which is actually being conducted a lot), but a program that children can truly ‘enjoy’ without the burden of learning and memorizing something. For example, if a program provides children with the responsibility of raising plants or young animals (for example in 4-H) over several months, they would be actively engaged.
In addition, I think it is necessary to plan camps and various activities outside where children can use the natural environment as a playground and use plants as “toys.”
Many countries are already conducting similar outdoor programs, but more active promotion is needed for children who are still heavily connected to their devices, to see and experience their relationship with the natural world around them to improve the ecosystem and the human-animal-environment interconnections.