“I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electric outlets are.” - A 4th Grader in San Diego, quoted in Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv 1-3-2014 6-35-52 PMHow sad! Unfortunately, this child's idea of "play" seems to be the norm today. When I was growing up, the kids in the neighborhood spent all day outside and just went home for lunch, supper, and when it got dark! Imaginations ran wild as we came up with games to play. We got dirty, played in mud, climbed trees, and rode bikes. It is unusual to find a street full of children at play anymore. What are they missing? Children who play outdoors become more fit, develop stronger immune systems, have more active imaginations, lower stress levels, play more creatively, and have a greater respect for themselves and others. (www.headstartbodystart.org) 1-3-2014 6-36-02 PM Children also develop an emotional attachment with what is familiar to them or in places in which they feel comfortable. In order for anyone to appreciate the environment, they have to spend time becoming familiar and comfortable with it. 1-3-2014 6-36-17 PM So where do we begin? How about right in your own backyard, so to speak! There are so many places in Limestone County that allow for outdoor play and activities! Walk in a creek, listen to the sound of the wind in the trees, look for and learn about beaver dams, practice tree identification, watch ants carrying food or building materials that can be up to 50 times their own weight! Watch a bumblebee in flight and learn about the mystery of their ability to fly when the aerodynamics have puzzled scientists for years. Find a secluded spot, be quiet, and just listen to the sounds of nature. 1-3-2014 6-36-28 PMGo to one of the local parks to watch the ducks or toss a Frisbee. Go fishing or canoeing on the Elk River Canoe and Kayak Trail. Take your binoculars and visit the 7 sites of the North Alabama Birding Trail located in Limestone County to discover wetland birds, forest dwellers, and songbirds. Ride your bikes on the Richard Martin Rails-to-Trails or the Noah Bike Trail. Take a hike on the Cowford Landing Rustic Walking Trail. Respecting nature does not come to us automatically simply because we are part of it. We can read about it and talk about it, but nothing instills a love of the natural world more than experiencing it, touching it, and being amazed by it! Don't rely on our schools to do all of the teaching on this subject. UNPLUG and GO PLAY! Make 2014 your year to rediscover the wonderful world of outdoors! By: Lynne Hart

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