As humans, we are hardwired to need nature because we are part of it.
Research shows that when we are more connected to nature we experience more positive affect, vitality, life satisfaction and happiness ¹
Today however, our kids are spending less time playing in natural environments compared to previous generations with only a quarter of children playing outside daily as compared to nearly three quarters a generation ago. ²⁰ ²¹ ²
The gap in our exposure to nature between our early evolutionary environments and modern life is clear, and appears to be growing. Reports estimate that our children devote only four to seven minutes a day to unstructured outdoor play like climbing trees, drawing with chalk, taking a nature walk or playing a game of catch. ³ ⁴ A six-year study of kids’ discretionary time showed a 16% decrease in time for play, or a total of nine fewer hours per week. ⁷
Our kids are increasingly busier and scheduled, and when they do have a few spare moments to themselves, they seem to be spending it on screen time instead of free play outside: kids, aged 8-18 have been found to spend more than seven hours each day in front of electronic media. ⁵ A report by The Nielsen Company found that even preschoolers watched on average over 32 hours per week of TV. ⁶
Clearly, we are disconnecting physically from the environments in which we evolved in, and its having seriously negative effects.
Exposure to nature is associated with increased happiness ⁸⁻¹³ and emotional and psychological well-being. ¹⁴ According to one study, children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. ¹⁵ Connecting our kids with nature can help them excel academically ¹⁶, be more conscientious, extraverted, agreeable, open ¹⁷ ¹⁸ and even more caring. ¹⁹ Outdoor play teaches kids to collaborate and solve problems and increases confidence and creativity. ²²
“When we go outside, my kids become their best selves. Gone are the petty arguments about whose turn it is or what to do next. Suddenly the kids are creative—digging in the dirt, picking up worms, jumping and laughing.”
Renee Limon, co-founder of Enviromom.com
I can certainly relate to this quote and I’m sure you can too. So join us at Our Thriving Kids for some outdoor fun and creative ideas of how to get the kids back into nature.
¹ Aitken N., Pelletier L. G. (2013a). The benefits of being connected to nature and motivated toward the environment on subjective well-being, in Presented at the 74th Annual Canadian Psychological Association Convention, Quebec City, QC
² Clements, R. “An Investigation of the State of Outdoor Play.” Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Vo. 5(1): 68-80, 2004.
³ Hofferth, Sandra and John Sandberg (1999), “Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997,” University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
⁴ Juster, F. Thomas et al. (2004). “Changing Times of American Youth: 1981-2003,”Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. http://www.umich.edu/news/Releases/2004/Nov04/ teen_time_report.pdf
⁵ Rideout, Victoria et al. (2010). “Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds,” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. http:// www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia030905pkg.cfm
⁶ McDonough, Patricia (2009), “TV Viewing Among Kids at an EightYear High,” The Nielsen Company, October 26, 2009. http://blog. nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/tv-viewing-amongkids-at-an-eight-year-high/
⁷ Hofferth, Sandra & John Sandberg (1999), “Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997,” University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
⁸ Berman M. G., Jonides J., Kaplan S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychol. Sci. 19, 1207–1212 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225.x [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
⁹ Berman M. G., Kross E., Krpan K. M., Askren M. K., Burson A., Deldin P. J., et al. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. J. Affect. Disord. 140, 300–305 10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.012 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
¹⁰ Mayer F. S., Frantz C. M., Bruehlman-Senecal E., Dolliver K. (2009). Why is nature beneficial? The role of connectedness to nature. Environ. Behav. 41, 607–643 10.1177/0013916508319745 [Cross Ref]
¹¹ Nisbet E. K., Zelenski J. M. (2011). Underestimating nearby nature: affective forecasting errors obscure the happy path to sustainability. Sci. 22, 1101–1106 10.1177/0956797611418527[PubMed][Cross Ref]
¹² MacKerron G., Mourato S. (2013). Happiness is greater in natural environments. Environ. Change23, 992–1000 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.03.010 [Cross Ref]
¹³ White M. P., Alcock I., Wheeler B. W., Depledge M. H. (2013). Would you be happier living in a greener urban area? A fixed-effects analysis of panel data. Sci. 24, 920–928 10.1177/0956797612464659 [PubMed][Cross Ref]
¹⁴ Nisbet E. K., Zelenski J. M. (2013). The NR-6: a new brief measure of nature relatedness. Psychol. 4:81310.3389/fpsyg.2013.00813 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
¹⁵ Kuo, PhD, Frances E., & Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD. “A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study.” American Journal of Public Health 94.9.Sept. 2004. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/ articlerender.fcgi?artid=1448497
¹⁶ Bartosh, Oksana. “Environmental Education: Improving Student Achievement.” Evergreen State College, 2003. http://www.seer. org/pages/research/Bartosh 2003.pdf
¹⁷ Nisbet E. K., Zelenski J. M., Murphy S. A. (2009). The nature relatedness scale: linking individuals’ connection with nature to environmental concern and behavior. Behav. 41, 715–740 10.1177/0013916508318748 [Cross Ref]
¹⁸ Tam K. (2013a). Concepts and measures related to connection to nature: Similarities and differences. Environ. Psychol. 34, 64–78 10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.01.004 [Cross Ref]
¹⁹ Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A. K., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). “Can nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1315-1329.
²⁰ Clements R. (2004). An investigation of the status of outdoor play. Issues Early Child. 5, 68–80 10.2304/ciec.2004.5.1.10 [Cross Ref]
²¹ Louv R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin
²² The National Wildlife Federation report Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body and Spirit through Outdoor Play.