Encourage children to spend time outdoors where they can grow to love nature.

We live in a high-tech culture, and there’s no escaping the changes email, cell phones and the Internet have brought to the world.  But with all the technology, parents are jeopardizing their child’s experience with nature.

“Children are denied access to nature,” says Carl Honoré, author of Under Pressure:  Rescuing Childhood from the Pressure of Hyper-Parenting.  “Nature is the original playground.  It’s the original classroom.  That’s where kids for thousands of years have learned how to interact with the world around them."

Why are children so plugged in?

  • There’s pressure to keep up with the neighbours and give children the latest gadget.
  • High-tech gadgets promise to prepare kids for life in a high-tech world.
  • Cell phones put children in reach.
  • Video games keep children out of trouble and are a tempting form of baby-sitting.

Nature-deficit disorder

“We have cut ourselves off from nature as a culture, and we’ve cut our children off as well.  They’re sort of bubble-wrapped and kept in doors, and they have very little experience of what’s going on outside," says Honoré.  "I think that denies them the simple health benefits of being out in fresh air."

With the risk of our children being overloaded with technology in schools and at home, there's little time for nature.  With our busy lives children are at the threat of suffering nature-deficit disorder.  If families are so busy, how do you make time?

At home:

  • Re-think our own relationship with technology and recognize when we sit in front of the TV for hours, check email or talk on our mobile phones constantly.
  • Do things together as a family:  play sports or games, read a bedtime story, bake, visit friends. 
  • Give kids freedom to play outdoors.

At schools:

  • Make nature and spending time in it an important part of the curriculum.
  • Both preschoolers and older children thrive in outdoor programs.  It gives them a chance to blow off steam and opportunities for hands on learning.
  • Time in nature gives children an understanding of how the earth works and our role in preserving it.
  • Young people will need to spend time in nature if they’re going to be part of saving the planet.
  • Improved academic scores.  A 2002 study of 150 elementary and middle schools in 16 US states found that using nature to teach some of the curriculum improved marks in science, languages, social studies and math.
  • Improved student behaviour.  When one school in the US introduced an outdoor program, disciplinary referrals fell by 90 percent.

Conclusion

Make time to be in nature.  Children will become healthier, understand nature and value the environment.

“At a time when we’re destroying the planet, we really need to be inculcating in our children an understanding and an affinity with the outdoors," says Honoré.