As a society, we are raising the first generation of Americans to grow up disconnected from nature.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that the steps that got us here are easily traced, and the way to work toward reversing them is clear.
Most importantly, by giving our children a "Green Hour" a day -- a bit of time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world -- we can set them on the path toward physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
About this program:
Most adults of a certain age have childhood memories of carefree days spent playing outdoors -- climbing, digging, collecting, building, and exploring the natural world around them, at their own pace, in their own way.
Those children of a generation ago are the parents of today, and you might expect such outdoor play to be part of their families' lifestyle. But today's overscheduled kids are increasingly "plugged in" to electronic devices and media and unplugged from the fundamental and formative experience of nature in their own neighborhood. Their senses -- including, most sadly, their sense of wonder -- are bombarded, overwhelmed, and ultimately diminished.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, refers to this nature-child disconnect as "nature deficit disorder." One of the primary symptoms is the replacement of the green space by the screen space as the occupier of children's free time. Indeed, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that the average American child spends 44 hours per week (more than 6 hours a day!) staring at some kind of electronic screen. Studies have linked excessive television viewing to obesity, violence, and even lower intelligence in kids. Now, a growing wave of research indicates that children who spend time outdoors are healthier, overall, than their indoor counterparts .
Children who regularly spend unstructured time outside:
Play more creatively
Have lower stress levels
Have more active imaginations
Become fitter and leaner
Develop stronger immune systems
Experience fewer symptoms of ADD and ADHD
Have greater respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment
The National Wildlife Federation recommends that parents give their kids a "Green Hour" every day, a time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world. This can take place in a garden, a backyard, the park down the street, or any place that provides safe and accessible green spaces where children can learn and play.
To give parents and caregivers the information, tools, and inspiration to get their kids -- and themselves -- outside, NWF has created GREENHOUR.ORG, a website rich in family-friendly content and which hosts a supportive virtual community where families can learn, explore, and share their outdoor experiences and backyard adventures. (TOP)
For more on the Green Hour visit www.greenhour.org/section/about .