Nature has a way of nurturing us. After all, as human beings we used to spend a lot more time outdoors. We worked on farms, or had long walks to and from school … but thanks to the industrial revolution and technology we end up inside most of the time, and our kids are constantly glued to one kind of a screen or another.
Here’s a little help getting them out of the house:
Tell your child you are very sorry to break it to them, but they are suffering from “Nature Deficit Disorder” … Don’t laugh … It is a “real” term that is being used by experts to describe children who are not getting enough time outside. This will help your child to take you seriously! And you should take it seriously too! The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. Sure — it is safe inside the home and easier for kids to be “entertained” under the casual eye of parents under the same roof. But there are many good (and real) reasons to get outside and into nature.
According to recent studies noted by author Danielle Cohen at the Child Mind Institute, there are benefits of spending time outdoors, both for kids and adults. Even if your child balks at going outside, in the long run they will be smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.
Here is why nature is good for kids’ minds:
• It builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.
• It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
• It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant, or pull a flower out by its roots.
• It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Your kid doesn’t have to be joining the local soccer team or riding a bike through the park—even a walk will get her blood pumping. Not only is exercise good for kids’ bodies, but it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for kids with ADHD.
• It reduces stress and fatigue. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue. (Source Child Mind Institute)
So while screen time is the easier, more popular choice, it’s important to set aside time for outdoor play. Ready, Set, Go – Nature is waiting for you and your child!!!