Getting kids to get more green time

Metro Atlanta offers many spots and trails for family friendly hikes, some organized with naturalists guides and activties such as marshmallow roasts and hayrides on weekends. Here are some:

Panola Mountain State Park. 2600 Ga. 155 S.W., Stockbridge. Built around a 100-acre granite mountain that has been compared to Stone Mountain, the park has hiking trails, picnic shelters and educational programs. 770-389-7801,

Sweetwater Creek State Park. Mount Vernon Road, Lithia Springs. The park’s 215-acre George Sparks Reservoir offers fishing and canoeing. A wooded trail leads to the historic ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company. 770-732-5871,

Red Top Mountain State Park. 50 Lodge Road, Cartersville. Boat rental, swimming and fishing in Lake Allatoona. Hiking trails and a reconstructed 1860s homestead are among other attractions. 770-975-0055,

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, 900 Kennesaw Mountain Dr., Kennesaw. Artillery demonstrations, trails and views of downtown Atlanta from the top.

Tips for Outdoor Play Every day

Divide and Conquer

Can’t do one hour every day? That’s OK! Try

starting with 15 minutes every day either before

school, or immediately after. Or squeeze in 30

minutes twice a week. The biggest challenge is

getting out the door; once you are there, you

might find it hard to go back inside!

Sibs on the Side

Every spring and fall younger brothers and sisters

are sidelined at big sibling’s soccer games. Get

them into the game by having them go on a miniscavenger

hunt: have your child find a dandelion,

listen for bird songs, and feel the bumpy texture of

a tree and give a sticker or small prize when the

hunt is completed.

Retro Fun

Teach your kids to play outside the oldfashioned

way. With some inexpensive

supplies you can transport yourself back

to a simpler time. Build a storehouse of

outdoor props and let oldie-but-goodie

games, such as hopscotch, Double Dutch,

Red Rover, and Capture the Flag begin.

Source: National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) and

If you go:

Hike & Seek, 9 a.m. to noon next Saturday (Oct. 27), Online registration before the event is $12 for adults; $7 for children 3 to 17. Day of registration is $15 for adults; $9 for kids 3 and older.

Piedmont Park, 1320 Monroe Dr., NE, Atlanta,

(Note: Parking will be available at the SAGE parking facility near the Atlanta Botanical Garden (parking vouchers provided for all registrants at the registration tent).

The National Wildlife Federation will host a “Hike & Seek” event at Piedmont Park next Saturday. The 1.8 mile interactive hike will include five “stop and study” stations on plants, reptiles and birds along with a scavenger hunt for leaves with insect holes, smooth shiny rocks and Y-shaped twigs.

This second annual event is part of a larger “Be Out There” campaign by the NWF designed to get kids to trade screen time for green time. The campaign hopes to get 10 million kids, who typically spend several hours every day in front of screens (TVs, computers, smart phones etc.), to devote at least 90 minutes a week to unstructured play and explore time outdoors. The campaign is also aimed at getting kids to unplug and connect to nature close to home — whether it’s a backyard or a neighborhood park.

Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, manager for Education and Advocacy Programs at the NWF office in Atlanta, said the event at Piedmont highlights how many nature experiences can be available in a city park — everything from listening for a red-headed woodpecker to finding animal tracks.

“We are trying to promote that nearby nature,” she said. “Right outside in your yard, you can observe and explore. Use your senses. Listen to the sounds of nature. Listen and you can hear birds and other types of wildlife. Use your observation skills. Look at the how the leaves are changing colors… Moss on rocks, tree bark which is great for rubbings, pine cones…”

The upcoming event is a fundraiser for the NWF, a non-profit, which also organizes “backyard camping” events every year. The cost of the event ranges between $7 and $15; free for children under 3.

A 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend about seven and a half hours a day in front a screen. Children are more sedentary nowadays, and they are also more likely to be overweight than previous generations. Nearly one in three children ages 10 to 17 in Georgia considered overweight or obese, according to the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. Georgia ranks second in the country for childhood obesity (just behind Mississippi), according to “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010, ” a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For families seeking to reconnect with nature, David Mizejewski, a naturalist with NWF, suggests families start off small, such as going for a 15-minute walk before dinner or starting Saturdays (before the soccer and ballet and other activities) with some time outside as a family.

“A lot of adults think we need to plan a trip to Yellowstone,” said Mizejewski. “And while that is wonderful, it doesn’t need to be that complex. The whole idea is nature is all around us. Going in your backyard or taking a walk in your neighborhood can be as simple as it needs to be.”

Families, he said, can turn the walk into a scavenger hunt by looking for things such as oak leaves and acorns. Look up to the sky to find shapes in clouds, he said, and you’ve got another game.

“It is so low-tech and nature just serves it up for you,” Mizejewski said.

LaKisha Riddick of Marietta attended the event at Piedmont park last year with her family. She said her sons, Josiah, 12, and Justin, 8, loved the learning stations on insects and mammals. When they returned home, her sons took notice of a pear tree in the backyard.

“They were looking at the leaves and were suddenly more interested in the tree,” said Riddick. “I think it gave the kids more of a willingness to be outside,” said Riddick. “Now on the weekends, it’s like, ‘Let’s go outside.’”

When Riddick grew up in New York City back in the 1980s, she spent virtually every free moment outside: running, playing games, jumping rope, exploring. She stayed outdoors until the street lights came on.

Her sons, she said, are perfectly happy to enjoy their downtime inside.

“They are busy with school, homework and basketball,” said Riddick, who also has a toddler daughter, Keren. “And when they have free time, they like their video games, and they are are content that.”

She said the Piedmont event was a good reminder of the nature all around them.

Riddick said her kids may not live outside like she did, but she is making a point to encourage them to spend more time outdoors, and to watch that pear tree grow.