Last week I was relaxing with my husband in our bed watching a favorite sitcom via www.hulu.com and between show segments were these short 30-60 second commercials. Usually I’m pretty oblivious to the ads except for one that made me nearly fall out of bed in disbelief.
It was a short public service type message that was speaking to the lack of outdoor play time that our children get these days. The piece closed with a mission proposal to parents that we get our children outside for at least an hour a day along with a website: www.greenhour.org
I read recently in our local newspaper about the current statistics out from the National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org) and was astonished at the idea that many kids get no more than 5-7 minutes a day with nature outside. I don’t know if that includes accounting for those who play outdoor sports but I also don’t think that really matters. Bottom line I just can’t believe that this has happened under our noses and am consumed with avoiding such a hazard for my son and any other children we may have.
Boggled by the recent news article and the commercial computer ad, I did an internet search and came across congressional testimony before the Interior and Environmental Subcommittee by Richard Louv at the U.S. House of Representatives on February 27, 2007 entitled “Leave No Child Inside”. I highly recommend pulling this up and reading it if you would like a concise overview of the problem our nation is facing with the next generation being disconnected with nature. Mr. Louv is also the author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”.
In Mr. Louv’s testimony he brings up several reasons why this dramatic decline in children’s outdoor play has occurred in recent years. There are the obvious technology boom of video games, DVD players, iPods and the Wii (an interactive video gaming system). While although more muted of a reason, it is a nonetheless pervasive mentality that we have as parents today of being phobic that our child will be the next Fox News or MSNBC poster abduction child.
However, as we delve deeper into this issue I believe you’ll agree with me that the adverse effects of our children having less contact with nature makes the risks of allowing/fostering their interactions outside a small issue. For instance, there is scientific evidence through various studies to indicate that spending time outdoors helps our children’s cognitive development.
You don’t have to be a “tree-hugger” to also appreciate the fact that we need our children to be in touch with nature so we can ensure our Earth’s future by having conservationists and so forth emerge out of the next generation to replace the current ones who aren’t getting any younger.
Maybe it was my son’s newborn jaundice but I really cannot recall him being kept inside too long on a daily basis. This also includes the days I wrapped him up like an Eskimo baby and tucked him into the Bob jogging stroller while I attempted running in my postpartum blue days when it was in the 20s and 30s outside in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
I even introduced him to all the trees in our yard at that time and later in my family’s yards. Nothing special, just a ‘good morning’ and patting the bark. That was when he was less than a year old, nowadays he’s interested in what’s in the trees like the squirrels and the woodpecker. He also enjoys feeling the different types of bark. It goes without saying that he’s in love with those trees that give him stuff like oranges and tangerines here in Florida.
I’m not going to say it’s easy to get your children outside, especially if they’ve never really had a relationship with nature. It’s a definite sacrifice for parents to get children into nature especially if they are school-age as you contend with their school schedule, any extracurriculars, your work schedule, homework, dinner and so forth. Of course, if you’ve chosen home-schooling, you have a time advantage that I hope you’re using effectively.
What I’m trying to say is that this is a relationship important enough to foster even if it means you need to adjust dinner time or what TV shows you want to watch–whatever sacrifice it may take on our part as parents is truly worth the dividends for our children to grow up connected to the natural world that we ourselves depend upon for everyday living.