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Nacogdoches talk to help parents prioritize outdoor play

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Texas Children in Nature
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The coordinator for Austin, Texas-based Texas Children in Nature speaks tonight at Stephen. F. Austin State University about getting kids outside more often.

The organization was formed six years ago at the request of state lawmakers who sought to address a growing body of research that found kids today spend upwards of 11 hours a day indoors and in front of screens. Jennifer Bristol says the lack of outdoor play is detrimental to a child’s mental and physical state.

“We used to think media was the culprit -- computers, laptops, mobile devices, and cell phones. We’ve got to get kids to unplug, unplug, unplug. But really, the true villain in that statement is sedentary and indoors,” Bristol said.

SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture outreach coordinator Sarah Fuller says this talk is an effort to get East Texas families motivated to be outside, and to elevate the discussion about outdoor recreation that is accessible.

“We have within driving distance three national forests that provide numerous recreational opportunities -- hiking, wildlife watching, camping. You don’t have to go out and climb the highest peak to appreciate nature,” Fuller said.

Bristol highlights research that concludes unstructured outdoor play can nurture a child’s natural inquisitiveness, enhance cooperative skills, improve self-confidence, and cultivate creativity.

“When you watch kids playing outdoors, they’re coming up with games, problem solving, setting up rules and boundaries for each other. They are doing all these things in a social way that we can’t really recreate,” Bristol said.

Fuller says parents are encouraged to bring kids. SFA students will lead nature-based activities, including a black bear maze that takes children through the seasonal life cycle of a black bear.

The lecture and community discussion is set for Monday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. in the Ina Brundrette Conservation Education Building at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, 2900 Raguet St. in Nacogdoches.