Lately, I have written two blog dealing with media and technology. To me, it is the proverbial double-edged sword. It has great benefits, but can also be detrimental if abused. To me, it completely threatens unstructured playtime and time outside. I know I am not alone in my concern. A survey or 900 moms commissioned by Busch Gardens® and titled “Natural Fun Takes a Backseat to Tech Time for Kids & Families” found that 85 percent of moms worry that their children don’t experience enough free, natural outdoor time. In a term popularly coined by Richard Lou, author of the bestselling book The Last Child in the Woods, many parents worry about nature deficit disorder. May I present the natural antidote? Immerse your child in nature!
Debra Manchester Macmannis, MSW have spent considerable time and research looking at this phenomenon and wrote about it in a blog entry. In reviewing some of the work on the topic, she first cites the work of environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, from the University of Michigan. They are known for their work on restorative environments and health. They found that office workers are happier and healthier when they have a view of nature at work; hospital stays are shorter when there is a view of nature for the patient; that children do better academically when they are exposed to nature; and that individuals walk longer when they walk outside in pleasant environments. In short, they found that nature serves to lessen the mental fatigue that arises when one must focus and work at length at something. It helps an individual sustain focus and sustain attention to task in academic and work situations, apparently including the exercise variety of work. Macmannis also looked at a significant study that was done on ADHD. In a 2004 report that was published in “The American Journal of Public Health,” Francis Kuo, PhD, found that kids with ADHD who participate in activities conducted in natural outdoor environments concentrate better and show less impulsivity. Nature was found to lessen ADHD symptoms!
She goes on to discuss the other benefit of nature. She cites studies that indicate that children who spend time in nature get along better with other children; have enhanced imaginations; show improved cognitive abilities; better physical health; are less stressed out; show increased psychological maturity; and are more attuned to the environment and to nature. What isn’t there to like about this remedy?
As summer quickly approaches, children may cheer and parents may wonder how are they going to occupy their children’s time. Summer is the perfect season to instill healthier and new routines that emphasize open space over screen space. Technology and media have their limits in most households, but nature is something that can be so limitless and far-reaching in its gains for our children, for adults, and for our families.