The average American child spends hours in front of screens every day and with children spending this much screen time, there is an important piece missing from their childhood. That missing puzzle piece is nature. Some experts believe that this lack of experience with nature is a contributing factor in health problems for children.
Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods” and design consultant on Washburn’s new facility, coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder. He explains that children in this modern age often do not have enough time with nature and this causes problems not only for physical health but also emotional health. Children are not getting the benefits like exposure to natural light, which can boost mood, and being outdoors where physical activity releases stress. There are many ways for parents to encourage their children to get outside and these are just a few:
- Limit screen time. Tell the child they can only have a certain amount of screen time each day and get them looking up at other things and moving outside.
- Talk with neighbors about playtime. Communicate with other neighbor parents about having their children out at the same time for maximum friend potential.
- Find activities to do with the children. Parents who show their love of the outdoors and share that with their children are setting a great example for how important nature is.
- Give them challenges. Children love a good challenge that they are asked to complete and it makes them feel responsible. Parents can find leaves and ask the children to discover which tree they came from or just challenge them to a race around the house.
- Start a collection. Parents can get children excited about collecting different kinds of leaves and pressing them, or getting a good rock collection going is always fun. Children can have a personal connection with the things they find in nature.
Being out in nature has many benefits for mental health like boosting mood, relieving stress and facilitating focus. Without going out and having experiences with the environment, many children miss out on these benefits. Parents can use the ways listed above and find other ways to connect their children with nature and promote physical and mental health.
Note: This information should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a mental health condition. Call 612-871-1454 to learn more about Washburn Center’s mental health services for children.