Special events aimed at getting kids outside to play

Get the kids OFF the screens and let them step into nature! Ann Niednagel, Indiana Children and Nature Network, (along with a few friends) explains Indiana’s Nature Play Days and how you can take the ICAN play 30 pledge to get outside 30 minutes a day.

Event description:

Nature Play Days are a being held across Indiana between June 10th and 18th to encourage families to play outdoors and reap the physical, mental, and emotional benefits nature play provides.  The primary goal of Nature Play Days is to reconnect children with the outdoors and provide a space for outdoor exploration and fun.  Attendance is usually free and open to the public.

Kids today spend, on average, 50 hours a week on a device and over 90% of their time indoors.  The rise of childhood obesity and diseases such as Attention Deficit Disorder are challenges for children across the country from every social and economic class. Thankfully, time spent outdoors supports many aspects of children’s mental, emotional, and physical health as well as cognitive development, teambuilding skills, and interpersonal relationships. Nature Play Days are an opportunity for all to connect with nature and begin to create what will hopefully be a lifelong relationship with and in nature.

Participants of the Nature Play Days can post photos to social media using the #ICANNaturePlayDay hashtag to win prizes.

Nature Play Days are an initiative of the Indiana Children and Nature Network (ICAN). ICAN builds collaborative efforts to encourage children spending time in the natural environment. This is a project of the Environmental Education Association of Indiana (EEAI). More information and a listing of Nature Play Days across the state is available on the ICAN website: www.IndianaChildrenAndNature.org.

Indiana Children and Nature Network (ICAN)
Indiana has joined the national movement to get children outdoors through the Indiana Children and Nature Network (ICAN). ICAN builds collaborative efforts to encourage children spending time in the natural environment. The project is an initiative of the Environmental Education Association of Indiana (EEAI), a group of outdoor and environmental educators from around the state. ICAN encourages government, businesses, nonprofits, academia, individuals, and families to impact a societal change that allows more time to be spent outdoors.

Mission: Our mission is to foster the connection of children, families and communities to the natural environment so they can receive the physical, emotional and intellectual benefits of spending time outdoors, while building a lifelong love of nature.

We do this by:
·         Raising awareness of the many benefits of connecting children with nature;
·         Promoting unstructured play and time outdoors for children and adults;
·         Engaging a diverse network of people and facilitate collaborations.

Current State of Children’s Health by NEEF

Our children may be the first generation at risk of having a shorter lifespan than their parents [1]. Sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity have contributed greatly to the numerous health problems plaguing today’s children. Chronic conditions such as childhood obesity, asthma, attention-deficit disorder, and vitamin D deficiency have all increased over the past few decades [2, 3]. These conditions may lead to pulmonary, cardiovascular and mental health problems in adulthood. Outdoor activity in the natural environment has taken a back seat to television, video games, the computer, and a demanding schoolwork and extracurricular schedule. Many low-income and minority children are often more cut-off from nature due to the ‘built environment’ around them: poor housing conditions, high-volume traffic, and a lack of parks and green space [4]. While losing contact with the natural environment, today’s youth are missing key opportunities for physical activity, stress reduction, attention restoration, and healthy development.


[1] Ludwig DS (2007). New England Journal of Medicine, 357(23): 2325-27.

[2] Perrin JM, Bloom SR & Gortmaker SL (2007). Journal of the American Medical Association, 297(24): 2755-59.

[3] Mithal DA, et al (2009). Osteoporosis International, 20:1807-1820.

[4] Committee on Environmental Health (2009). Pediatrics, 123(6):1591-1598

To learn more, visit www.indianachildrenandnature.org.