Children and nature

Children are experiencing an absence of direct engagement with nature, including less free and unstructured outdoor playtime, reduced mobility, less range for exploration, and not walking or riding a bike to school.

What is the big deal? Do kids really need nature? Michigan State University Extension says that study after study indicates that yes, kids really do need nature. There is growing evidence that with significant changes in children’s outdoor experiences, or lack of outdoor experiences in the past few decades, children are becoming more and more distant from natural experiences and the health benefits that nature supports. Richard Louv coined the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book Last Child in the Woods. In the book Louv points out many health related issues facing our children as they become less and less integrated with their natural surroundings.

According to the Children and Nature Network there are always exceptions, but many children and youth are experiencing an absence of direct experience with nature. Some of the causes of this deficit are the result of less free and unstructured outdoor playtime, reduced mobility and less range for exploration, not walking or riding a bike to school.

There are many health issues related to Nature Deficit Disorder as well, a rise in obesity rates and vitamin D deficiency are two of the major health issues.

Other issues are the lack of nature knowledge, cognitive studies show a direct link between time spent in nature and developing the capacity for creativity, problem solving, intellectual and emotional development.

According to Stephen Kellert, professor of social ecology at Yale, children experiencing direct nature playtime has declined drastically over the past 25 years. Children have fewer opportunities to spontaneously engage and immerse themselves in nature. Kellert urges developers, educators and political leaders to build and provide children with positive contact with nature.

To learn more about Children and Nature, the positives and negative and how you can be the change join the Children and Nature Network.

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