What’s a ‘Green Hour’ and Can It Actually Make My Kids Healthier?

what is a green hour and is it good for my kids

Forest bathing. Forest schools. Doctors prescribing walks in the woods. The evidence that kids benefit hugely from spending time outdoors is undeniable and mounting. Better school performance, sharper social skills, less depression and hyperactivity, improved sleep—all are tied to spending more time playing in nature.

But modern parents face challenges when it comes to getting kids adequate, unstructured outdoor playtime. From the limiting of recess at school to the draw of technology at home (and everywhere), to the endless violin, Tae Kwon Do and travel lacrosse leagues vying for a spot on kids’ schedules, parents struggle with how to slot in time for a simple romp through the woods.

The danger, of course, is as kids grow up, their regimented, digitized, adult-directed lifestyles become entrenched to the point that, as Slate’s Laura Smith suggests, “Perhaps popping a pill is less daunting than an overhaul of our daily routines.”

That’s where green hours come in. It’s the genius new idea courtesy of Collin O’Mara, head of the National Wildlife Foundation. Writes O’Mara in the Washington Post:

“Commit to a green hour—whenever possible, set aside an hour of nature play time for kids each day. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control agree an hour of free play and moderate activity daily is a prescription for lasting health. Increasing a child’s time in nature and the outdoors does not have to be a heavy burden for parents and caregivers; a quick stop at a local park on the way home from school, fishing in a local stream, or an impromptu picnic outside all count,” O’Mara writes.

So, the next time you’re puzzling over whether to book fall semester gymnastics or chess on Thursdays at 3 p.m., consider earmarking that time for the outdoors instead. (Then, if anyone asks who tutors your kids, you can say “Mother Earth.”) For more ideas on what kids can get up to once they get out there, click here.

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