The Gift of a Green Hour

Yes, mom and dad, it might mean turning off your favorite weekend sports show or afternoon soap. It may require that you put off that nap or cleaning the gutters or the 101 other to-do’s you’ve given a little checkbox in the ordering of your daily life. But you could do no better (a possible equivalent might be to read to your child) than taking him or her outdoors for a Green Hour.

We’ve probably missed the mark in our narrow focus on “exercise” and “physical fitness” and organized sports when we should have been looking instead or at least in important addition at promoting pure and plain ol’ play. Some play is physical and burns calories, but some of the best is for the sheer joy of creating adventures and finding patterns and using the imagination outdoors. The latter may be more important than we’ve realized in helping shape our little one’s values and understanding and in the end, their care for our world that they will inherit.

Green Hour is an effort by the National Wildlife Federation to encourage parents, grandparents (and other kinds of grown-up children) to take the time to take their kids out under the sky. I encourage you to join the “Community Corner”–a growing resource of connected adults concerned about the consequences of “nature deficit disorder” on our increasingly denatured kids. See you there!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I have a kid who is ADDNH (non hyperactive) He never played video games, watched very little TV, in fact now at 24 he does not even own a TV. The kid knows every inch of Colington Island, our home, and is now a surveyor. I think a lot of kids are misdiagnosed with ADD because they don’t get enough exercise but those who actually have ADD and their family’s have a problem that simple exercise will not correct. We did use medication and my son hated it, He did not like the way it made him feel, but it was the only way he could focus sitting still in a stuffy class room for 6 1/2 hours.