Today’s children do not play outside the way their parents did. There are a variety of reasons for this: too much screen time, a fear of the outdoors, overly scheduled days. Because of this lack of outdoor time, children are suffering from what has become known as nature-deficit disorder, the phrase coined by Richard Louv in his groundbreaking book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”. This lack of a connection to the outdoors is affecting them in ways that are detrimental to their health and happiness.
Research connects the lack of outdoor time to increased obesity, depression, stress, diabetes, ADHD and poor performance in the classroom. Childhood obesity is alarmingly on the rise, doubling in the last two decades, while cases of ADHD are increasing in number and the use of antidepressants in pediatric patients has risen sharply.
In addition to these frightening statistics, there are other more positive reasons why you should encourage your child to play outdoors. For example, children who have access to the outdoors are healthier, more focused and perform better in school. According to a March 2010 survey of nearly 2,000 educators by the National Wildlife Federation "78 percent feel students who spend regular time in unstructured outdoor play are better able to concentrate, and 75 percent feel students who spend regular time outdoors are more creative and better problem solvers. Studies confirm access to nature in an educational setting has a positive impact on student focus and learning by improving attentiveness, test scores and performance."
Children who play outside have better self-esteem, enhanced brain development, are more creative and curious, and possess a sense of connectedness to the environment, as well as well as their communities. In addition, children who are not glued to electronic devices every spare minute of the day are better communicators, more poised and can relate to others on a much more compassionate level. The bottom line is that exposure to the outdoors is vital in the development of a healthy, smart and well rounded child.
Young people who grow up spending time in nature are also more likely to be strong advocates for the environment when they reach adulthood. This is important to ensure that the land, water and wildlife legacy we have worked to conserve continues to benefit future generations. This page is a work in progress, please come back frequently as we update and grow it!