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jul 18

How to spare your kids from "nature deficit disorder"

Seems like every time I listen to the news or read a paper, there's a story about how kids never get outside anymore.

My first reaction is to wax nostalgic. When I was a kid, my friends and I were always running around outside, only coming in when our parents called us for dinner—and dashing back out the second we were excused from the table.

Of course, kids have about as much interest in hearing those stories as they do in imagining life without the wii game console.

Fortunately, there are people out there who are much better than I am when it comes to motivating kids to get off the couch. In Stephanie Rach-Wilson's DVD set Into the Great Outdoors, kids can follow the adventures of Chipper, a suburban squirrel who goes on a camping trip and learns all about banana slugs and bears, how to stay safe in the woods, and why it's important to respect nature.

Travelocity is doing its part, too. After conducting a family-travel poll and finding that families with children are visiting national parks and other nature sites much less frequently than previous generations, the company created a microsite with tips about how to incorporate nature into family vacations. The site offers nature-oriented trip ideas, itineraries for road trips through scenic parts of the country, national park suggestions, and tips from Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and father of the term "Nature Deficit Disorder."

What I like about both Into the Woods and the Travelocity's microsite is that they’re not overly structured. They encourage kids to get outside, but after that, the kids are on their own to explore, invent games, dig in the dirt, whatever—which just seems refreshingly old-school. Will getting outside get kids to drop wii forever? Doubtful. But playing virtual bowling won’t be their main source of exercise anymore, and that's a good start.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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