Importance of Kids in Nature
Increasingly, kids spend more and more time indoors – either on electronics or in structured activities leaving little time for free play and being in nature.
Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, tells the story of interviewing a child who told him that he liked playing indoors more than outdoors “’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”
This is alarming but the good news is that it’s easy to fix. Many of us live the reality of fast-paced, busy lives with packed schedules … so I’m not suggesting that we all pack up and move to the mountains (although that does sound nice at times). Rather, we can make small changes to incorporate nature into our lives.
Benefits to Being Outside
Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of spending time outdoors. Kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive and less anxious than kids who spend more time inside.
It promotes imagination and creativity. Unstructured play allows kids to interact with their surroundings and play freely. Below is a video of my son having fun in our sheep pasture.
It builds confidence. Because playing outside generally has less structure than indoor play, kids are given the opportunity interact with the outdoors based on their own ideas and choices. For example, imagine a hiking trail – the child can climb up the rocks that are obstructing a portion of the path or go around – these small choices challenge their bodies physically but also teach them that they have the power to control their actions.
It teaches responsibility. Living things die if they are mistreated or not cared for. Entrusting a child to participate in caring for pets and plants helps to teach them the importance of caring for the things around us.
It makes them think. Louv says that nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occur naturally in backyards and parks everyday make kids ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
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.*
It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than iPad apps and Xbox games, but being outside activates the senses… we see, hear, smell and touch more when we are outdoors. This is especially important as kids grow and develop. “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow,” Louv warns, “and this reduces the richness of human experience.”
It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch, which is not only good for their health but helps with their concentration and focus, especially for kids who have ADHD.
So start today! Take your kids outside!