Do I Need Dental Insurance For My 2 Year Old Go Outside and Play! Four Reasons Why Exposure to Nature is Essential For Our Children’s Well-Being

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Go Outside and Play! Four Reasons Why Exposure to Nature is Essential For Our Children’s Well-Being

1. TIME OUTSIDE HAS A DIRECT EFFECT ON A CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT.

There is growing evidence indicating that direct experiences with nature are essential to a child’s physical and emotional health. Studies have also shown that exposure to nature can increase a child’s resistance to stress and depression

Although many sports are played outdoors, for the purpose of this article when I say time outside, I am not referring to organized sports. I’m referring to solitary, random or unstructured time in the great outdoors.

The health benefits are many. Playing outdoors does not increase the chance of getting sick. Kids don’t get cold from cold weather, they get cold from germs. According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is our nation’s number one environmental health concern; from two to ten times worse than outdoor air pollution. Excessive indoor play has also been linked to childhood obesity. Outdoor play promotes physical endurance and strength.

The physical and social activity that children enjoy in nature is different from organized sports. Time in nature is more open – no time restrictions apply. The children make up the rules. Consequently, they learn critical group skills because they must learn to work together and discover the value of teamwork. These are important lifelong community building skills.

A New York-based study followed 133 people from childhood to adulthood. The study found that competence in adulthood stems from three main factors in the early years: 1. Rich sensory experience both inside and outside 2. Freedom to explore with few restrictions 3. Parents who are available and acted as consultants when their child asked.

Most people in today’s world do not look to nature as a remedy for emotional difficulties. We rarely, if ever, see an ad for naturopathy even though we see many ads for antidepressants or behavioral medications. Many parenting books provide advice on how to deal with difficult behaviors. Rare, however, is the advice manual that recommends spending time in the natural world as one of its suggestions. While medication and behavioral therapy certainly have their benefits, the need for such remedies can be reinforced by a child’s disconnection from nature. Although not a cure for major depression, time spent in nature can alleviate daily pressures that can lead to depression.

If parents could perceive a child’s time in nature not only as leisure but also as an investment in the health of our children, we would be doing them a great favor.

2. TIME OUTSIDE CAN HELP AVOID SENSUAL OVERLOAD AND OVERFAITH IN THE MATERIAL WORLD.

The internet is here to stay and can be a great tool. Overuse of it, however, has been linked to higher levels of depression and loneliness.

There is an overwhelming amount of sensory input pushed at our children. Many children consequently develop a “know it all” wired type of mentality. If it can’t be Google, it doesn’t matter. Consequently, children miss out on the endless possibilities that exist outside of the karate world. Indeed, the serenity of the outside world can provide a sense of quiet awe – something that even the most advanced computer can offer.

It is easy in our society for children to become attached to “stuff”. It is important to take time to tell our children what makes us feel happy outside of the material world. Tell them why experiences like gardening, taking long walks, and watching the sunrise make us feel better. Avoid sending the message that all the things that make us happy must come from a store.

3. TIME OUTSIDE BOOSTS CREATIVITY, CONFIDENCE AND FOCUS; MAY RELIEVE SYMPTOMS OF ATTENTION AND LEARNING DISORDERS

Studies indicate that children engage in more creative forms of play in green areas over manufactured playgrounds. Natural environments encourage imagination and make believe. Boys and girls also tend to play more equally and democratically in the open air. It’s a sense of wonder that makes kids ask more questions.

Also, ideas and imaginations are not limited by what is man-made, but can expand to everything outside that is naturally available. Fields of grass, trees, sticks and rocks can become almost anything imaginable. The creative possibilities are endless.

Author Vera John-Steiner in her well-known book, “Notebooks of the Mind”, explored how creative people think by looking at the backgrounds of some of the world’s most creative musicians, painters, scientists, writers and builders both living and deceased. John-Steiner found that the inventiveness and imagination of almost all the people she studied were rooted in their early experiences of open play.

A natural environment is much more complex than any playing field. It offers rules and risks and uses all the senses, Outdoor challenge programs have shown a direct link to confidence levels long after the experience is over.

Have you ever noticed how a child who may struggle to concentrate, focus or remember in a classroom can effortlessly perform these skills during open play outside? Focus comes more naturally outside. The skills developed outdoors can easily be extended back to the home or classroom, Many studies suggest that exposure to nature can also reduce symptoms of ADHD and can improve learning skills.

4. TIME OUTDOORS CAN HELP OUR CHILDREN TO APPRECIATE AND UNDERSTAND THE PLANETS DESPITE CONFUSING AND DISTURBING MESSAGES FROM THE MEDIA.

Television, although informative, can give a distorted view of the “dangers” of mother nature. As a result children may enjoy less interaction with friends and neighbors. Less interaction with neighbors only breeds isolation. Our intuitions and “guts” as well as our collaborative skills are often rooted in our interactions with friends and neighbors.

Stranger danger and fear of wildlife attacks have prompted many parents to prefer indoor playdates or visits to fast-food playgrounds. Although real risk of course exists, the fear of stranger danger and wildlife attacks has been played up heavily by the media. Children are particularly vulnerable to media reports. They see one report of an attack or abduction and assume it’s happening everywhere. Children don’t think globally (and because of how it can be portrayed in the media, neither do many adults). Author Richard Louv in his book, “Last Child in the Woods” describes a case of a high school teacher who expressed concern after taking his students on a camping trip. Apparently some of the students had trouble enjoying the experience because they were terrified that what happened in “The Blair Witch Project” would happen to them.

When I’m walking outside or walking with my kids, instead of telling them to “be careful,” I prefer to say “be careful.” Mindfulness encourages them to be aware with all their senses and avoid inducing irrational fear of “what’s out there”.

Children may also resist unstructured trips outside because they feel it is “boring”. Again this can be related to the programming of media that tends to focus on natural disasters. Although sometimes very educational, it can also be extreme. Therefore, unless children see a bear tearing apart a calf, they feel that they are not enough – it is dull. Be careful to balance media exposure with positive real-life experience.

While it is important to teach our children about environmental awareness, if they do not experience direct positive interaction with the outdoors, there is a risk of associating anything to do with nature with fear and destruction instead of joy and wonder. Too much emphasis on “saving the planet”, global warming and environmental abuse can cause young people to view the planet as nothing more than a science experiment or a place to avoid because of all the bad things happening on it. It is essential to find the right balance between environmental awareness and positive practical experience.

THINGS YOU CAN DO

Before you start packing the family and outdoor gear and planning a trip to The Grand Canyon or giving up hope because you have no intention of going to The Grand Canyon, remember that the mysteries of a ravine at the end of your road, or a special tree in your own yard, is equally if not more delightful to a young child than the known wonders of the earth.

Parents do not need to “teach” their children to inspire an appreciation of nature. Observing a simple march of ants can arouse wonder. Skipping stones in a stream or picking up stones to count worms after a rain is in itself an education.

Hiking is a wonderful vehicle for experiencing the natural world. However, the migration of one parent can become the forced march of a child. Be careful to introduce the excursion rather than push it. Make it a mutual adventure. “Come outside with me” or, “Let’s go hiking” may not sound that interesting but “Let’s find rocks to build a fort” or “Let’s see who can climb the biggest rock” offers much more possibility.

Gardening is another great way to introduce children to what the earth can do. Often children are more likely to eat things they have grown themselves that they would not otherwise eat.

Many parents express concern when they see their children “doing nothing.” Alone time can actually be quite rewarding as children can get to know themselves, their strengths and their desires on a deeper level. Avoid telling children that they shouldn’t dream or look out the window sometimes. How else can they truly appreciate the magnificence of nature without the occasional idleness?

For single parents there are many nature organizations and online groups that encourage single parent family participation.

Make a list with your child of what you really like to do. The answers may surprise you. Many children will say that it is time outside in organized sports that they really love. Reevaluate your schedule to accommodate what you really like to do.

Get input from schools, nature organizations and friends. First of all, get outside!

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