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Children playing outside again
JANE’S GRANDSON ETHAN chalked up some pastel flowers in the driveway with the help of his girlfriend Natalie recently. They were outside having fun and making art to help people smile.

VIOLA - There a lot of pluses and minuses during this pandemic time. We can each choose what we focus on. I see children playing and the Earth getting a time out.

During our recent late-afternoon drive, I was astonished at how many children were outside playing. For years, I’ve driven these roads a lot for my work, and I can attest this hasn’t always been the case.

There were children riding their bicycles, coloring with chalk on their driveways, rolling down the yard inside huge boxes, and making forts with blankets thrown over picnic tables.

Yes, this was new. Dane and I spied more kids playing during one leisurely drive than we have over the course of five years. Now, you might say, I haven't been past yourhouse before, and maybe I haven't. But you can’t argue about how many more kids are out and about since the pandemic began.

Is it just because they are now doing school at home? I don’t think so—this was a Sunday drive.

Social media has been full lately of photos and videos of children Hula-Hooping, playing hopscotch, and swinging from homemade swings. Children are helping their parents in the garden; gently catching garter snakes to observe them, then releasing them; searching for bloodroots and bluebells. 

Nowadays, in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, the trailheads are often full on days when I’ve never seen people there before. Kids are at the pond, running through the fields, climbing trees, and watching the Canada geese, Sandhill cranes, and tundra swans. Children are getting good and dirty and learning while they explore and play.

I saw more people out on Earth Day picking up garbage than I ever have before, and more bags of trash lying next to the road waiting to be picked up. This year there seemed to be more children than adults carrying those garbage bags and doing their part to make our roads clean again.

At the same time, while people have been sheltering at home these past several weeks, the Earth has been breathing more freely thanks to the reduction of carbon dioxide emitted from planes, trains, and automobiles, along with less pollution released by factories and other businesses. The effects are dramatic. Dolphins are being seen in canals where they haven't been for years. The Himalaya Mountains are now visible from some parts of India for the first time in decades.

How refreshing these changes are. How healthy! 

If we’re going to have a pandemic, if we must shelter at home, let the children play outside, and let the Earth breathe more freely, while we stop running around so much. Let this be one of the lessons we take away from this crisis. More outdoor time for children (and adults) makes everyone happier, healthier, and wiser, and the Earth gets a rest from our harsher impacts.