When Richard Louv wrote about the startling decline of outdoor, unstructured playtime for children in his book Last Child in the Woods back in 2005, he essentially tossed a match on a movement that was ready to catch fire all across America. That movement—a push to get kids back outside to play—has now found outstanding support in the Petoskey–Harbor Springs area through the group Getting Kids Outdoors, which intends (as you might have already guessed) to get kids outdoors.

The local enthusiasm appears to match the reception that Louv found with his book. “People are really talking about it. We really couldn’t have dreamed it would be catching on like this,” says Molly Baker, the group’s chairperson. “It’s the health of our kids, and if that can’t bring people together, what can?”Statistics on the Getting Kids Outdoors website make a compelling case for change. 1. Kids spend an average of 6 hours a day in front of some kind of screen. 2.40 percent of schools in the United States have cut recess. 3. Our children may be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

The group is having a kick-off breakfast Friday, May 1, at the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Tribal Government Center Commons Area, Pleasantview/Hiawatha Roads, Harbor Springs.

There’s already talk of forming a companion group near Traverse City. If you’d like to get a group started in your area, write Molly Ames Baker. Find tips, resources, details about the breakfast and much more at gettingkidsoutdoors.org.

Easy Things to do Outdoors

  • Follow an ant
  • Catch water bugs
  • Go fishing
  • Camp out in your backyard
  • Catch lightning bugs
  • Build a sandcastle
  • Roll over a log
  • Follow animal tracks
  • Pretend to be your favorite animal
  • Adopt a pet rock
  • Have a campfire
  • Go out at night and watch stars
  • Put up a bird feeder
  • Plant a butterfly garden
  • Make mud pies

Photo(s) by J. Wilkinson