According to the Center for Environmental Health, children’s contact with nature helps to ease attention-deficit disorder, aids cognitive development, enhances creativity, and reduces stress. And of course, with obesity at a critical level in this country, kids need to be running around outside now more than ever. A new report by the Nature Conservancy states that attendance has been falling at America’s national parks since the 1980s. They blame videophilia, but we can also see connections with Louv’s findings. Other reports indicate that early positive experience with nature fosters a strong sense of stewardship and environmental responsibility. In other words, if we want the next generation to take care of the planet, we’d better let them play outside on it now.
Clare Cooper Marcus has written a lot about the differences between children who play in organized, planned playgrounds and the more organic “adventure playgrounds” where kids use all sorts of different materials to build their own play structures.
Listen to an NPR report about Louv, “Saving Kids from ‘Nature Deficit Disorder,” and read an article about him in The Hartford Courant: “Losing Touch With Nature.” There’s also a great interview with Louv on Grist.
Even as adults, we can let our fears of sun damage, insect borne-disease like Lyme and West Nile, or even just slipping and falling on the ice keep us from venturing outside. It’s important to balance your fears with the benefits of going outside – Vitamin D from the sun, exercise, reduced stress levels, a change of scenery, the potential for wonder and discovery.
So go on, get off the computer now and go outside to PLAY!