In modern society, many children spend very little time outdoors. And this time can be in a concrete playground without access to many elements of nature.
ON UK study 2016 said the average child in the UK only spends 4 hours a week outdoors. In contrast, the American Heart Association reports The average child spends 7 hours a day looking at screens and warns parents to do a shift.
Do we do our children a disadvantage by limiting their time in nature in favor of technological overload? There are many indications that children MUST spend more time in nature – this is good for their mental, physical and emotional health.
This study from Denmark found that children with a high degree of access to green spaces and time in nature have fewer psychiatric disorders from childhood to adulthood. The only disorder that did not correlate with access to nature was intellectual disability and schizophrenia.
Indeed, that Results displayed This access to nature has allowed children to overcome other “disadvantages” to mental health, including their parents’ socio-economic status, family history of mental illness and age.
Another study points out that there are a variety of ways that directly connect time in nature and health. This includes:
1. Air quality – Trees and other forms of vegetation actually reduce air pollutants. Children who grow up in urban or suburban environments are not exposed to the same air quality as children who grow up in the country. Clean air is vital for our health and wellbeing. So if you live in an area with little greenery, it is important that you take your children into nature as often as possible.
Trees also have an indirect effect on our air quality by lowering the temperatures in hot months (shadows) and thus reducing the need for high energy consumption for air conditioning. This means that less coal emissions are released into the air, which means that ALL of our air quality improves.
2. Physical activity – Exercise has been linked to improving health for people of all ages. When children are forced to sit at a desk in a classroom, they do not get the exercise that their bodies need. Movement manually pumps your lymphatic system, increases your heart rate, and oxygenates your blood. Spending time outside is vital to the health of young children, and our modern classrooms just don’t offer it.
3. Social issues cohesion – This study also found that spending time in nature increases social cohesion for children and adults. Imagine children playing together in a fortress and how they interact to build the fortress, create character roles and find pieces of nature that meet their needs. Then imagine children in a home staring at a television or classroom and listening to a teacher who is not allowed to whisper, giggle, or play. You can easily see how nature can strengthen social cohesion.
4. Chronic stress reduction – In our world, we all know someone who has an illness that has been caused or contributed to by chronic stress. Stress can have a major impact on our mental, physical and emotional health. This study cites many other studies dealing with research between nature and stress reduction. When we reduce stress, we reduce diseases across the spectrum.
Time in nature is not only good for your child’s health, but also crucial for their brain development. According to this study from Stanford HealthUnstructured play in nature has many advantages for children:
- Children become physically healthier
- It contributes to cognitive and emotional development
- Improves sensory development
- Increased attention span
- More happiness and better immunity.
The Huffington Post interviewed the author of Balanced and Barefoot, Angela Handscom, who claims that children should spend at least 3 hours a day outdoors.
Angela calls active free play, especially outdoors, “the most useful gift we as parents … can give our children.”
You can watch them book Here:
In order to enable children to live a more natural life, a family is pushing against the general school method with its lifestyle blog – 1000hoursinnature.com – They claim that parents should strive for more if 3 hours is the recommended minimum length of time spent outdoors. The benefits are just amazing.
You can register on meetup.com or Facebook and find forest school communities in your area! The group is free in Austin and is led by volunteers / parents. There are programs like that too Earth Native Wilderness School that offer outdoor-based curricula.
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