Time. It’s a small word for a very big issue in many of our lives – mainly not having enough. Time outside? That’s even more difficult. With the increasing number of organized activities, deadlines, and the growing competition of technology, it is becoming harder for families to carve out even small amounts of time for nature. However, if the experts are to be believed, time outside has never been more crucial.
Let’s take a moment and look at some scary numbers:
- American children ages 3-12 spend 27% of their time each week watching television and only 1% outdoors. (Hofferth & Sadberg, 2001)
- Children ages 8-18 engage in over seven hours of media time each day (e.g., watching tv, listening to music, using the internet/computer, playing video games). (Foehr & Roberts, 2010)
- Children are spending half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago. (Juster, F. Thomas et al., 2004)
- In one generation, the percentage of people who reported that the outdoors was the most influential environment of their childhood dropped from 96% to 46%. (Rachel Sebba, 1991)
Why should we reverse this trend? – Because the cost of doing nothing is high. The shift to more inside, sedentary, activities has been shown to cause attention difficulties, hyperactivity, childhood obesity, diminished senses, and a disconnect from reality.
A relationship to the natural world can remedy problems in both body and mind.
- Outdoor play increases fitness levels, raises Vitamin D levels, and improves distance vision.
- Exposure to natural settings has been shown to reduce stress, increase creativity, and enhance social interactions.
- Schools with environmental education programs score higher on tests in math, reading, writing, and critical thinking. In addition, students have higher GPAs and cause fewer classroom disruptions.
Given the big picture, getting outside seems a simple solution. If we wish for future generations to care about the land and its resources, nature connections must be made early, made often, and must be maintained.