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Several psychologists are examining the independent play and exploration outdoors and its impact on children’s development. Greater evidence demonstrates the various benefits of nature on children’s psychological and physical well-being, that include reduced stress, improved physical wellness, increased creativity and greater focus and concentration.  

Across studies, the findings indicate that nature is great for children. Not only does free and unstructured play outdoors improve health and cognitive capacities, children also attain a sense of curiosity and a profound understanding of their connection and responsibility to care for Mother Earth.  

Various factors have coerced children indoors such as greater land development, more demands on children’s time that may include homework and structured activities that include video games, the internet, the computer and/or parental fear.  

Today, few children have a deep connection to the environment which sabotages future generations’ concerns and relationship to the earth. A significant study conducted by psychologist Dr. Nancy Wells, found that children who had the greatest green space near their home improved their cognitive functioning than those with less natural resources. Also, Dr. Sandra Hofferth’s study demonstrated that between 1997 and 2003, the amount of time children between the ages of 9 and 12 spent participating in outdoor activities declined by 50%.  

You may be asking yourself: “What are children doing instead?” Children are more likely to play video games, watch TV and spend time on the computer. These activities are correlated to a increase in childhood obesity. A 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that one-third of children and teens, ages 2 to 19, were overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. By 2010, an article in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity predicts that approximately 50% of school-age children in the United States will be overweight or obese.  

Without establishing a connection to the natural world when children are young they are less inclined to have a relationship with Mother Earth as adults. Many parents are unaware of the benefits nature has to offer to their children. Other parents are unsure of how to tear their children away from the TV or computer. Parents are encouraged to make time to get outside to play, run and explore. The change must be gradual. Parents can start by creating an activity on their front lawn for one hour. Schools are recommended to increase recess time and green playgrounds.  

Children’s symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder improved when they received the opportunity to expend their energy outdoors rather than engage in activities indoors.  

The goal is to build a child’s love for nature through everyday interactions!  

*For more information, please contact Dr. Drecun at [Link Removed] 

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