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Fight Childhood Obesity -- Get Your Kids Outside

As the school year winds down, homework requirements slacken, social calendars get less overbooked and days grow longer, it's worth getting your kids outdoors and reaping some of the fiscal and environmental benefits.

Here are a few ideas:
  • Hop on a bike with kids who are old enough and find safe routes for peddling to the movies, nearby restaurants, baseball practice, dance class, friends' houses and even on small errands. You'll save money on gas and show your kids that they don't always need you and your car keys to get around.
  • Fishing or berry/apple/pumpkin/whatever picking shows kids that food does not come in an endless stream, neatly packed in boxes from someplace far away. They'll see that what we eat has to be grown, or grow up, on farms and in the water and woods and it teaches them what grows and swims locally. They'll start to appreciate why it's important to protect local waters and farmland and woodland, and maybe even waste a little less at the dinner table.
  • Remember, when you're small a little green space goes a long way. There are 5,842 state parks covering 13 million acres. They have 43,000 miles in walking trails. And there's city and county parkland on top of that. Some of these areas are suitable for camping, canoeing, skiing and swimming; others are just the right size for a leisurely, hour-long weekend excursion.

Getting out to one of these green spaces near you is a good opportunity to show your kids the nature you have, and that's worth protecting, right in your own hometown.

Louven offers other ideas for enjoying local green space on his Web site. The Sierra Club offers links to organized programs around the country that it partners with to get kids outdoors.

If that local adventure is successful, on your next vacation consider visiting a national park. You'll have plenty of room to roam. National Park visits, though they vary by region, have been declining since 1999, with the sharpest dropoff in the Midwest. The way to keep this incredible resource available and well-kept is to show Congress and local governments that we value it.

You'll come home inspired to make sure future generations get to appreciate this vast open space. Should your vistas, your sense of awe or your good time be marred by a pile of soda bottles, or an abandoned car tire, take that lesson home with you, too. And remind your kids that everything they throw in the garbage has to go somewhere -- and that has its impact on us all.

They might just listen for a second -- before putting the iPod buds back in.
Eileen P. Gunn writes about the business of life and is the author of "Your Career Is An Extreme Sport." You can learn more about her at her Web site .
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