Did you ever notice that all the rebukes we articulate to our children, over and over again (“Take off your shoes on the rug,” or “Don’t climb on the furniture,” or “Don’t jump on the bed,” or “Be careful not to spill your water,” or “Use your inside voice!”) don’t apply when our children are in nature? As they cross the threshold from our homes into nature, the shackles of inside living are cut loose, and children can finally play and explore, like…. children!
When we aren’t micromanaging their every action, they don’t have our imposed stress and limitations holding them back – they can build, move, imagine and create. If we want to cultivate the values of creativity, imagination, independence, empathy, conservation, physical activity and curiosity in our children, we have to carve out a space where they can nurture these values.
That’s not all that time outdoors can do for our children. Spending two or more hours a day outdoors can also:
• Improve fitness levels, sustain levels of Vitamin D, improve distance vision, and develop motor skills, including coordination, balance and agility; • Reduce stress levels and symptoms of ADHD; • Increase critical thinking skills and cognitive development, improve awareness, reasoning and observation skills, teach problem-solving skills; • Support emotional development, increase confidence and self-esteem, enhance social interactions, and encourage collaboration with others; • Encourage imaginative and creative play; and • Encourage independence and autonomy.
But one of our favorite experiences outdoors has to offer, is the experience of wonder, amazement, and awe. Studies have shown that children who spent between five and ten hours a week outdoors expressed feelings of peacefulness, happiness, awe and a sense of belonging in the world.
Imagine a medicine with all these health benefits that, when used along with sunscreen, appropriate clothing and hydration, had no negative side effects. What would that be worth to society? And what would WE be willing to pay for it?