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NJ Lawmakers to Kids: Get Outside [AUDIO]

Is it another ridiculous government intrusion or a positive step in the right direction? New Jersey legislators appear set to pass a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights in the coming weeks.

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Butterfly on a girl's nose
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

Morristown child psychologist Dr. Steven Tobias believes this is a good idea.

“Most activities for children are adult-driven, very structured, and very organized,” he said. “Kids really need time to go out to play, to explore, to discover. They need opportunities to interact with one another, letting them work out their own conflicts. Let them develop their own games, let them figure things out for themselves.”

Dr. Tobias said parents are always structuring things for their children, and that may be a bad thing.

“We’re really depriving kids of opportunities to learn for themselves, and kids who can learn on their own are going to do better cognitively, and many studies show they’re going to do better on testing as well,” Tobias said.

He said one of the best ways to teach kids problem solving is through unstructured free play.

“Going out in nature is a great idea,” Tobias said. “It’s a natural part of childhood, and kids need to just to relax and hang out — and that’s not in front of a computer of TV screen.”

The bill, which is now in resolution form, states every child has the right and opportunities to:

  • explore the woods
  • climb a tree
  • run through a field
  • build a fort
  • splash in the water
  • catch a fish
  • explore a city park
  • turn over a log
  • sleep out in a tent
  • gaze at stars
  • follow a trail
  • listen to birds
  • play in the mud
  • hold a frog
  • plant a garden
  • eat locally-grown food
  • play in the rain
  • follow animal tracks, and
  • celebrate New Jersey’s habitats.

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