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Discover the wonders of nature this winter

By Lisa Richardson, Ontario Nature

The Weather Network

February 4, 2014

Health practitioners have long known that outdoor, nature-focused play and exploration are integral to the healthy development of any child.

But a growing disconnect between young people and nature has hurt children's collective health and well-being, contributing to increased rates of obesity.

The disconnect has also decreased kids' attention spans and mechanisms for coping with stress.

The Ontario Outdoor Children's Charter was created to reverse this alarming trend by getting children away from electronics and into nature.

Under the leadership of the Back to Nature Network and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, a coalition of concerned organizations including Ontario Nature developed the recently-launched Ontario Children's Outdoor Charter.

The purpose is to encourage and enable children of all ages o explore the natural world. The partners in this initiative recognize that all young people have the right to discover nature and play outdoors, whether swimming in a lake, building an outdoor fort or hiking in a local park.

Partners received broad endorsement of the charter from organizations committed to children's health and outdoor education.

"Many adults have fond memories of family cottage and camping trips - spending time swimming, hiking and playing outdoors," says Sarah Hedges, co-ordinator of Ontario Nature Guardians program.

"But many urban kids today don't have these opportunities. That is why we created the program. Hundreds of children and teens have no planted native trees, gone camping and visited nature reserves throughout the province."

Participating in nature-based activities like those offered through the Nature Guardians program not only improves the long-term health and well-being of young people, but also helps to instill a lifelong appreciation of nature.

People who learn to love nature as children are more apt to help protect it later in life.

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