Tips to help you connect your family to nature!
Children’s overall health is positively affected by connections to outdoor spaces. This is essential for a healthy balance with technology use.
For the first time in history, most of our children are growing without a real connection to nature. Nature-deficit disorder was first described in 2005 in the book, Last Child in The Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Nature-deficit disorder isn’t a medical diagnosis, but it is a term recognizing an urgent problem. Richard Louv coined the term, and it was recognized by many as a call to action – to save children from losing a connection to nature.
Urbanization and technological advancements are a trend, but the resulting gap between the natural world and children creates concern. Since the recognition of nature deficit disorder, numerous scientific studies have shown that disconnection from nature can result in diminished use of the senses, higher obesity rates, attention difficulties, and a range of illnesses. On average, children ages 8-12 spend 4 to 6 hours a day viewing a screen, and teenagers can spend up to 9 hours with screens, while spending less than an hour outdoors. Regular screen time and deprivation from recreating outdoors leads to mood swings, lower grades, sleep deprivation, a poor self-image, screen dependency, irregular psychological shifts, depression, and lower cognitive function.
Virtual realities can affect a child’s demeanor and outlook on life. One of the goals of social media apps is to maximize the time spent on that interface. Children are immensely vulnerable to this and are susceptible to making screen time a priority in their day. Conflicts over screen time are common between parents and their children - as a parent you aren’t alone regarding this issue! Unfortunately, these conflicts can affect the level of parent engagement with their kids.
Children who engage in too much screen time become less in tune with and more detached from their surroundings. Extreme situations can lead to depersonalization-derealization disorder, a serious medical illness. Children indulging in heavy social media may have reduced creativity and, decision-making ability, and an inability to have authentic interactions.
There is power in conscious decision-making. Parents, relatives, friends, and mentors can help kids make healthy decisions about how they can feed their bodies and brains. Alternatives to watching a video, show or playing a game might include a walk to a park, a play date in a neighbor’s backyard, building a fort, climbing up a tree or a spontaneous scavenger hunt!
One solution is in the magic experiences outdoor spaces can bring. A study in the journal Environment and Behavior demonstrates that children who spend even short periods outdoors see a reversal in fatigue and concentration issues. Indulging in outdoor activities boosts children’s morale, energy levels, perception, and drive. Kids’ experiences recreating in the outdoors gives them a chance to look far beyond a screen and to become immersed in what it is like to live, and belong in the natural world.
Here in Western Colorado, we have many organizations and passionate teachers who are more than ready to assist kids and their families with becoming familiar with the great outdoors. As a parent or guardian, are you looking for a few ideas to encourage your kids to take it outside? Here are a few creative outdoor activities you can do with your kids: Generation Wild suggests 20 ideas for 20 minutes- the magic number for helping kids feel better, 100 things to do before you are 12, backyard hacks – the best things to happen in the backyard since the invention of the BBQ. These ideas are in Spanish and English. There are many fun ways to engage your child with nature. How about sharing the experiences of a new outdoor activity together as a family such as snowshoeing, skiing, or building snow caves? The Nature Connection is hosting a free pop up ski lending day along with lessons on Feb 11 at County Line Trailhead on the Grand Mesa. Your kids will love the extra attention and encouragement of a shared experience with you along with the laughter and conversation. Your kid’s mental and physical health and your family relationships are sure to benefit!
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