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Get Outside, Count Some Leaves!

digital illustration of plants and leaves

Discover valuable reasons and ways to motivate kids to venture outdoors. 

By Brooke Stoneman, Former FCPL Librarian

Reengaging With the Earth

digital illustration of plants and leavesIn her poem “Foolishness? No, It’s Not,” Mary Oliver recounts an entire day spent climbing branches to count the leaves of a single tree. She describes being outside until she is “roaring with laughter, full of earth-praise.” 

After a cold winter, a wet spring and the long days of virtual or in-person school, our kids may need a bit of extra encouragement to venture back outdoors and experience joy in nature — but it’s worth the effort! There are so many reasons and ways to provide children with opportunities to be “full of earth-praise” this summer.

Proven Health and Wellness Benefits

According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report “Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body and Spirit through Outdoor Play,” time indoors has skyrocketed over the last two decades, and outdoor unstructured play has been reduced to mere minutes a day on average. The Whole Child report includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for at least 60 minutes of daily unstructured outdoor play to help reduce rates of obesity, future bone problems, heart disease and diabetes. 

Childhood anxiety and depression also have been shown to decrease when children can slow down and enjoy unstructured time outside. The National Association for the Education of Young Children reports that outside play provides more opportunities for children to solve problems, collaborate with others, take appropriate risks, and learn science firsthand.

Resources to Lead the Way

FCPL resources can help connect kids with more fresh air: Check out a local hiking guide like 50 Hikes in Northern Virginia: Walks, Hikes and Backpacks from the Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay by Leonard Adkins; or ask a librarian about borrowing a nature backpack for your next outdoor adventure. 

The Fairfax County Parks Authority’s monthly publication “ResOURces” is dedicated to all things parks, farms, nature center, trails, and so much more. 

For more information on optimizing the positive impacts of kids’ time outdoors, read the NWF reports “Friending Fresh Air: Connecting Kids to Nature in the Digital Age” and “Outdoor Play for Every Day.” 

Backyard Challenge: Brooke's Botanical Bookmark

By Brooke Stoneman, Former FCPL Librarian

This activity combines two wonderful summer activities: reading and exploring nature! Take a walk in the woods, next to a stream, or in your own backyard. Find leaves, small twigs and flowers that interest you. Follow these instructions to turn the items you gather into a botanical bookmark.

Collect items: Items that can be easily flattened are best. Press and dry leaves and flowers: Find a heavy book such as a dictionary or cook book. Place your treasures between two sheets of copy paper and then close them in the book. Make

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