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Free government advice for your sheltered kids

Mckenzie Tygret, 13, of Bellingham, Wash., takes a selfie of an alligator on her head with the help of Scott Petersen, the “Reptile Man,” in Keewaydin Park in Kennewick, Wash. The park has a variety of reptiles including lizards, snakes and a tortoise that Petersen showed off during a presentation that was part of the free family fun activities hosted by the Mid-Columbia Libraries on June 25. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thinks more kids should have exposure to wildlife. (Matt Gade/Tri-City Herald via AP)

Gone are the days when kids spent their summer vacations outside playing with sticks, digging for critters, climbing trees and using nature as one gigantic playground.

Hiding behind the screens of smartphones and tablets, today’s kids are wimps.

Or so says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Park rangers have witnessed that kids (and some adults) are increasingly more squeamish about bugs and snakes and fish and the great outdoors. “Whether it’s because today’s visitors tend to live more indoor lives than past generations or watch too many TV survival shows, fears of nature are flourishing – in all ages,” according to a Monday news release from the agency.

A 2011 study by The Nature Conservancy shows the government isn’t wrong in its assessment. While 88 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds surveyed said they spend time on the Internet every day, less than 40 percent spend time outside on a weekly basis. Why? Because it’s icky.

(Courtesy: The Nature Conservancy)

So the government is here with some helpful tips to get kids over their nature anxieties. (Free child therapy!)

Among them? “Don’t dissemble.” Tell kids there are snakes in the area, but that they rarely come out of hiding when people are around. And “show enthusiasm” – if a kid says something is “gross,” respond, “No, they’re so cool. Wait til you see one.” (We thought reverse psychology, “don’t you dare touch that spider,” would work equally as well.)

If the government’s how-to get your kids outside tipsheet fails, the Loop suggests telling detailed stories about your childhood walking to school uphill both ways. That will certainly get them out of the house.

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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