As a Mom of two school-aged girls it is a constant challenge to carve out the time to get them outside to play, but we try to make it a daily priority. Winter in our part of the country makes it even more challenging. When the real temperature is well below zero it’s tempting to just stay inside and hibernate. When wind chills are reaching negative 60, I begin to worry about exposed skin. So in the winter, the lower the temperature means the shorter the time we’re spending outside. When it’s excessively cold, we may only get 5 minutes of outdoor time before we need to take a warm-up break.
We also have a lot of nature inside our home: rock collections, sticks, pinecones and the like. I’ve even seen snowballs stuffed in the freezer for safe keeping.
Author and journalist, Richard Louv wrote an excellent book on this subject: Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. He created the term “nature-deficit disorder” to explain the cost to individual health as children move indoors and away from nature. Louv makes a case for nature-deficient childhood having a role in issues including attention disorders, obesity, loss of creativity and depression.
Some of my favorite observations from the book:
- Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.
- Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.
- As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.
Here are more reasons to get your kids (and yourself) outdoors:
- Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago.
- Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).
- In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own.
- Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration.
- Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.
- The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11.
Source: National Wildlife Federation
In addition, children who spend time in nature on a regular basis are shown to become better stewards of the environment. Understanding the importance of this at an early age will help to ensure a healthier, happier planet for decades to come.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” ~Rachel Carson
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