Celebrating Earth Day 2012 is the perfect opportunity to increase outdoor play while celebrating the environment, recommends the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD).

According to Bethe Almeras, center director of AAHPERD’s Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS), “Unfortunately children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation. HSBS is committed to helping early childhood educators and caregivers to discover the benefits of outdoor play and learn about outdoor play spaces that promote movement opportunities for children of all ability levels. When adults model and promote physical activity, they set young children on a path toward a lifetime of healthful behaviors.”

HSBS provides programs and families with everything they need to Take It Outside! including activity ideas, tips for facilitating active play, and suggestions for enhancing the environment.  For more information on HSBS, please visit http://www.aahperd.org/headstartbodystart/.

In addition, AAHPERD suggests the following ways to promote physical activity and the outdoors on Earth Day and all year long:

·         Visit a national park:  The U.S. is home to nearly 400 national parks with 84 million acres of spectacular scenery, historic landmarks, and cultural treasures. National Park Week runs April 21-29. With free admission all week, go for a hike, a walk, or jog with colleagues, friends, family and others in your community. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/npweek.

·         Volunteer to clean up the parks:  As part of National Park Week, April 21 is VOLUNTEER DAY in the parks. Work side by side with National Park Service employees to help maintain trails and board walks or serve on bike, horseback or beach patrol. To find a park near you, visit http://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.

·         Start a family garden:  Let your lawn grow and get the kids involved to create a fun, natural play space for after school and weekend family time. Kids can help plant their favorite flowers and parents can carve out a mini maze or zigzag path with a lawnmower; a perfect workout for everyone.

This week, Take the Pledge to say “Yes” to a healthy lifestyle and “No” to underage drinking by getting outside and getting active!