There are thousands of products being made right now specifically geared to please and entertain your little ones. Interactive toys, shows, and games are all presented to help aid in their development, and often times, we parents choose these forms instead of sending our kids outdoors to learn by exploring. According to one report, kids today are spending almost 50% less time outdoors compared to the previous generation. There are of course multiple reasons to point to. Some kids have no natural environment to explore like in many urban areas. Other kids have their schedules overbooked (mostly by parents, teachers, and coaches) and cannot find the time to turn over rocks and look for bugs. Many kids however are simply glued to the television, video games, or the computer, and parents allow this because it feels safer (no trips to the ER from a broken arm!) and is of course easier (who wants to clean up mud right after rushing home from work?!)
Studies however are increasingly showing that the ‘safer’ option is to kick our kids outside to commune with the birds, the bees, and the trees and that it is much more dangerous to leave them inside. Engaging nature and our natural surroundings appears to be just as important to our health as eating right, getting enough sleep, and being engaged and cared for by loving friends and family. Kids left indoors struggle with higher rates of obesity, asthma, ADHD, cardiovascular disease, and vitamin D deficiency.
Here are four ways that nature helps to improve the lives of our kids:
1) Reduces Stress & Anxiety (Studies have shown that nature can act as a buffer of life stress among rural children).
2) Treats ADHD Symptoms (Children have shown an increase in attention spans after activities in greener settings).
3) Improves Physical Health (There are lower prevalence rates for diseases for those who live in a more natural environment as demographic studies have demonstrated).
4) Improves Self-Esteem, Energy Levels, and Reduces Anger (Studies have shown that we get more out of exercising outdoors than indoors and that “green exercise” is associated with “feelings of revitalization and positive engagement”).
These are only four ways that nature helps our kids, and there are so many more! Check out the National Environmental Education Foundation for more valuable information on how our health and well being is connected to engaging the outdoors. Also, there are many great opportunities here at Cope Environmental Center for both you, your child, and entire family to kick start your engagement of the outdoors! Check us out copeenvironmental.org!