Snowmen offer outdoors opportunity for kids, parents


Forget the dwindling deer herd debate. Ignore the blotchy bass brouhaha.

There’s an outdoors-related issue more alarming than fracking, poaching and habitat loss combined.

It isn’t CWD or anything from the DEP. It’s SDD — Snowman Deficit Disorder.

OK. So maybe it isn’t technically a disorder. But according to many child-based specialists, Nature Deficit Disorder is a real problem.

Just ask Montour Preserve senior naturalist Jon Beam.

“Kids need time to play and explore outdoors without boundaries. It helps them develop a better sense of self and the world around them,” Beam said. “Video games, television, computers and the internet can really take time away from good unstructured time exploring outdoors. Some research has started showing a connection between lack of outdoor play and bigger behavioral problems later in life.”

A heavy blanket of snow is the bane of back muscles everywhere — but to many young children, a fresh snowfall creates a magical environment for play. It’s like God dropped fully equipped, shiny new playgrounds into every backyard in the Valley.

According to meteorologists, we’ve seen 150 percent more snow this year than in many recent winters. Wouldn’t it be conceivable that the number of snowmen should be proportional to the amount of snowy opportunities?

Unfortunately not.

It has shocking to see how few snowmen my family and I have noticed on various trips around the Valley. Every yard filled with an immaculate, bootprint-free blanket of snow seems to be a huge waste of opportunity.

Where are all the snowforts? Why are so many sledding-savvy hills sitting vacant as we experience wave after wave of slippery, white precipitation?

I’ll be the first to admit that getting children outdoors is much harder than it ever used to be. It seemed that my brother and I practically lived outdoors. However, just yesterday I had to pull out all the stops of near-bribery to get my youngest daughter away from the screen and into some snowpants.

Yes snow is cold and bundling up in multiple layers can be downright uncomfortable at times, but it also provides the perfect canvas for creativity and imagination.

Perhaps our children pick up on the growing frustration we sometimes show when faced with some of the downside of an overly snowy winter. Maybe we don’t do enough to get excited about snowmen, sledding and other wintery fun because we’re worried about digging out the driveway or safely navigating the family minivan to wrestling practice or the grocery store.

But more and more research is showing that outdoor play is critical for children as they develop and mature into the teenage years. And, our outdoors resources depend on us raising the next generation of young people who will value and vouch for our natural treasures.

Let’s all make a fresh commitment to enjoying the outdoors with our children — not just pushing them out the door — and we don’t have to wait for warmer weather to ignite their imaginations.

It can all start with a simple snowman. An old proverb suggests that it takes a village to raise a child. But sometimes it takes a child (and those who are children at heart) to raise a village — of snowmen, that is — and a brighter future for our outdoor resources.

~ by zaktansky on February 16, 2014.

One Response to “Snowmen offer outdoors opportunity for kids, parents”

  1. John, What a great article! I have noticed a snowman deficit here too! April just witnessed the child she is a nanny for made to go outside to play, and she just stood at the porch door watching the TV from outside! I know a near 90 year old who says she loves the outdoors. She likes to shovel, mow lawns, camp and walk! she loves the outdoors! She grew up in Germany. I wonder if children in other countries spend more time enjoying nature? This may be another area where the US lags behind other parts of the world. How sad and how easy to fix!

    Sent from Windows Mail

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