The case to get outside... I just finished reading Richard Louv's "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder"... wow. I picked up a copy at my local library after hearing it mentioned in some of my ADHD research. The premise of the book is that we, and our children in particular, are quickly losing an appreciation for, and involvement in, nature. We spend less time outdoors, and our children are losing valuable experiences and growing opportunities by being deprived of nature. A few things that stood out to me:
- 40% of American elementary school have eliminated or considered eliminating recess
What? Wow. I didn't realize it had gotten that extreme. I mean, I've heard the stories and am constantly amazed by how little movement our children get at school. But I didn't realize it was at 40%. At one school I worked, the kids who were "bad" and "acted out" in class (incidentally, these kids also usually had diagnosis of ADHD), had to stand at the wall for the entire recess. Now, that seems like a great way to get some of that overactive energy out, doesn't it? And then we can send them back into class to try and try again.
- Each hour of TV watched per day by preschoolers increases by 10 percent the likelihood that they will develop concentration problems and other symptoms of attention-deficit disorders by age seven
Well, there you go. I have already preached about screen time and television, but this is just another example of how computers, televisions, etc., are not appropriate for little brains. There is so much learning that occurs with hands-on experience.
- Louv also talks about the rise in depression that occurs from a childhood spent without true experiences in nature. The emotional resilience that comes from learning who you are in a larger world is an important piece of neurological growth. He gives many examples of children finding a quiet spot in nature to reflect on their individuality. Children also use nature to help manage the stresses in their life ~ finding a place to decompress and be calm in the natural world is important.
I look at my daughter and our own backyard. Can I give her that nature experience she needs? We have greenspace and our own little "woods" nearby. But I look even harder at the kids I serve, especially those in more urban settings. Are we robbing them of recess time? Obesity, depression, attention-deficit disorders... all run rampant through our schools. How can we support them, not just individually and with one-on-one support, but on a grander scale? How can we give them that experience in the outdoors they so desperately need?
Anyway, heavy thoughts to ponder. The book is a must-read if you are a parent. You can check out Richard Louv's entire website here: http://richardlouv.com/