As a young girl, the best moments in life were spent in trees, discovering dinosaur eggs, pretending to be a cowgirl roaming the neighborhood with my sidekick, and capturing fireflies on long summer nights. Spending time outdoors made my life much richer, and as I get older I am more and more thankful for those memories.
If you are concerned that your kids are not getting enough exposer to the great outside world, you’re probably right. Most kids have a lot less experience with nature now than their parent’s generation. It kind of makes you wonder if Wall-E really is our fate.
- 64% of kids today play outside less than once a week.
- 28% haven’t been on a country walk in the last year.
- 21% regularly play outside, as opposed to 71% of their parents
The truth is, kids are not only missing out on great memories, but they’re missing out on a ton of health benefits and brain stimulation. When we take five minutes of time to “green exercise” rapid improvements escalate in mental wellbeing and self-esteem, (with the greatest benefits experienced by the young, according to a study this year at the University of Essex.) The AAP says outdoor play has been shown to help children focus better in a classroom setting and to enhance readiness for learning, easing the transition to school.
- The distance our kids stray from home on their own has shrunk by 90% since the 70s
- 43% of adults think a child shouldn’t play outdoors unsupervised till the age of 14
- 20% have never climbed a tree
- 21% have never been on a farm
Free and unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus, and self-discipline. Socially it improves cooperation, flexibility, and awareness. Emotional benefits include reduced aggression and increased happiness. The Children & Nature Network says contact with nature can help reduce stress levels and positively impact conditions such as anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (livestrong.com).
Let’s take a look at those benefits again, shall we…
- Mental wellbeing
- Problem-solving skills
- Stress Levels
“Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors,” concluded one authoritative study by American Medical Association.