As anyone who has purchased a calendar recently can attest, there is no shortage of days, weeks, or months set aside to celebrate the contributions of specific individuals, groups, or moments in history. From grandparents to bosses, cultural groups to historical figures, we make it a point to honor those things which matter to us with time set aside just for them. While some of these may seem silly (“Talk Like a Pirate Day” comes to mind) or distant (I’m not sure many Americans could identify the point in time marked by Armistice Day, for instance), one new celebration is well worth noting.
Each September 24-30 has been designated as “Take a Child Outside Week.” Initiated by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Take a Child Outside Week reminds us that connecting children with their natural world can do a world of good for kids, from helping them focus in school to reducing their chances of developing an unhealthy weight. They have set up a website where you can pledge to take a child outside, get ideas for outside activities, and learn about participating organizations all over the country. To learn more, visit them at www.takeachildoutside.org.
But just like honoring your grandparents, you don’t need a special event to take a child outside. The first fall days here in North Texas feel like reason enough, as do the first sightings of Monarch butterflies perched on the milkweed in our school gardens. Last weekend, I had the honor of bringing my two-year-old friend Rocco on his first trip to the zoo. Sure, he was amazed by the elephants, and the baboons were a big hit for reasons I probably don’t need to explain. But the most exciting animals were—you guessed it—the squirrels. And for a period longer than he spent at any animal exhibit, Rocco explored the wonders offered by a flower bed and a drain. Once we were outside, there was no shortage of things to spark his imagination. They just weren’t the things I would have predicted. But that’s the gift of exploring the outdoors with a child, isn’t it? For just a little while at least squirrels can amaze, and a metal drain cover in a flower bed offers mystery and wonder. It’s enough to make a grown man want to spend an entire day talking like a pirate.