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Now it the perfect time to re-introduce kids to the great outdoors: Mary Macias

Posted June 07, 2021 in Articles

Author: Mary Macias

Guest columnist Mary Macias is CEO and co-founder of Footpath Foundation, a local organization dedicated to providing all kids with outdoor opportunities. For more information, visit www.footpathfoundation.org.

“Look at me, Mom!” yelled my 8-year-old daughter. “I’m doing it!”

She focused her eyes downward at the log she was trying to walk across in the Cleveland Metroparks. The fallen tree was maybe 3 feet off the ground -- a daunting distance for a child. She had climbed up on top of the tree after asking me if it was safe to do so.

I knew the risk of serious injury was low, especially since I was standing right there. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to let her try something by herself. And she did it, walking the entire length of the tree. She was beaming when she finally jumped down.

So many things were accomplished in those two minutes. My daughter learned that she could try new things. She learned she could feel nervous and yet overcome those feelings. She learned she doesn’t always need help, and she increased her self-confidence.

When we got back home, she felt refreshed, confident and happy.

The experience again showed me the immense benefits of nature, especially for children. Spending time in green space reduces stress and anxiety while also improving mental and physical health.

With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, this summer is the perfect time to connect kids to the outdoors. Fortunately, Northeast Ohio is an outstanding place to do that -- and there are a number of great organizations willing to help.

Here are just some of the opportunities for families:

• Yay! Saturdays, which take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each week through July 17 at Wade Oval in University Circle. It’s free and is geared toward K-8 students and their families. You can find out more at https://www.universitycircle.org/learn/yay-saturdays.

• If you are looking for new outdoor adventures, check out Find Your Path, Cleveland Metroparks’ new mobile app. The Metroparks also have some great daily free and low-cost outdoor programming for kids. You can also check out camps located at convenient locations across the Emerald Necklace, such as Camp Hinckley. You can explore all summer opportunities at clevelandmetroparks.com.

• This summer, University Circle Inc. is launching a six-week Circle Explorers Camp for rising sixth- through eighth-grade students from Cleveland Metropolitan School District neighborhood schools. Campers will learn about health and wellness, sustainability and stewardship, and arts and innovation. It’s free, and you can find out more at https://www.universitycircle.org/learn/circle-explorers.

• For kids in foster care or with special needs, riding and caring for a horse can help provide balance, strength, flexibility and self-confidence. Consider volunteering in the Therapeutic Horsemanship Program at Strongsville’s Camp Cheerful, which is operated by the Achievement Centers for Children. You can apply here: https://campcheerful.achievementcenters.org/about-us/volunteering/volunteering-therapeutic-horsemanship/.

• Maybe your child is ready for camp. Check out day camping at Red Oak in Kirtland at https://www.redoakcamp.org or summer camp at Camp Whitewood in Windsor at https://www.4hcampwhitewood.com.

All kids need and deserve opportunities to spend time in nature. I tend to like to be around water. I find it calming. Since that’s not always possible, my second choice is to hike among trees.

Let’s give all kids the chance to discover their favorite outdoor experience.

Original Article: https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2021/06/now-is-the-perfect-time-to-re-introduce-kids-to-the-great-

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