Saturday, August 7, 2010

No Child Left Inside

You may have heard the term, "nature deficit disorder," coined by Richard Louv in his book, Last Child in the Woods (2005). According to Louv, today's children spend far less time outdoors than even a generation ago. With the rise in electronic entertainment - from television & DVDs to computer games to social networking sites like myspace and facebook, to cellphone texting and Wii - today's children are spending more than 50 hours a week with electronic media (Kaiser Family Foundation).

This disconnect from nature has been linked to childhood obesity, attention disorders, and stress and depression in children. Conversely, recent research has shown that children with ADHD concentrate better after a walk in the park. And overall health improves for both children and adults who live near parks or woods, even in urban environments.

The benefits to children of re-connecting with nature include:

  • increase in attention span, focus, and self-discipline
  • better problem-solving and cooperative behavior
  • increase in creativity, self-esteem, and overall happiness
According to the Children and Nature Network, "Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors."

You don't have to send your kids away to camp, take a family vacation to a National Park, or even allow them unsupervised play in the woods across the street. Outdoor activities can take place - safely- in your neighborhood park or even in your own backyard. Making outdoor play a family activity has the added benefit of strengthening family ties and creating shared memories that your kids will cherish for many years to come.

Check out these resources for family-oriented nature activities: