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Fall is great time for kids to be outside
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- As the leaves begin to change colors, Mississippi State University experts have several suggestions for getting children more involved in outdoor activities.
Leslie Burger, assistant Extension professor in the Mississippi State University Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, said kids copy the actions of their parents. If parents want their children to go outside this fall season, they must lead the way and become active and connected with nature themselves.
“Camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, bike riding and canoeing are just some of the activities that children can participate in during the fall,” she said. “If parents are concerned with the possible risks, be sure to do a little research before setting out on a new adventure.”
Burger said parents should be prepared for the unexpected when doing activates with their kids.
“Be sure to have items such as water bottles, jackets, rain gear and an extra set of dry clothes, including footwear, when participating in outdoor activities,” she said. “Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with absorbent socks. Wear layers that can be added or removed as needed. Choose items that are loose enough to allow freedom of movement without being a hazard for tripping or bike chains.”
The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge system are two of many agencies that offer free, family-friendly activities.
“Boy and Girl Scouts often provide outdoor opportunities, and since many clubs are often short of leaders, volunteering to help with a local troop can allow parents and children to spend time together,” Burger said. “Wildlife management areas and state parks owned by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks allow visitors to explore and enjoy the outdoors, as do local community parks.”
Beth Bell, a family and consumer sciences agent with the MSU Extension Service in Tallahatchie County, suggested competing in a 5K run as a way for children and their parents to spend some quality outdoor time together.
“Even if the children or parents are not able to run in the race, they can walk it,” she said. “Other activities could include practicing a certain sport the child is interested in. Helping with yard work at the house is another activity to allow kids to be outside in the nice weather.”
Bell said many organizations provide outdoor activities close to home.
“Often, community youth ball leagues offer lots of outdoor activities depending on the season,” she said. “The cost of these leagues is typically low. Also, local YMCAs or wellness centers will often hold outdoor events for children.”
Campuses at MSU and other colleges offer well-lit areas for walking, lots of grassy areas and activities for all ages.
“Walking and exploring a college campus is a great outdoor activity for children and parents to do together,” Bell said. “State parks and campground areas are also great places to explore.”
Jo Lynn Mitchell, president of the Mississippi Agritourism Association, said agritourism businesses around the state offer a range of activities throughout the year but are especially popular in the fall.
“At Mitchell Farms, we offer a wagon ride of the farm where everyone can learn of the crops we grow and the history of the farm while seeing beautiful sunflower fields and other crops growing nearby. Everyone can try their luck in the corn maze, and every paid visitor receives a free pumpkin from the pumpkin patch,” Mitchell said.
Other activities include a play area called “Tiny Town” where there are eight playhouses for children to play in, rope swings, a tire mountain, a magic carpet slide, a jumping pillow, an animal barn, a gem mine and a train ride.”
Mitchell Farms, located at 650 Leaf River Church Road in Collins, Mississippi, is open until the first weekend of November. Mitchell Farms is open to the public only on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
For other agritourism options, visit http://www.mississippiagritourism.org.