We live in an increasingly technological world. Our children (all of us actually) are spending more and more time indoors interacting with “screens” and less and less time outdoors interacting with the natural world. Each day we are having fewer primary sensory experiences (touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, listening to the natural world) than at any time in human history. Terms such as nature deficit disorder and attention restoration theory & nature have become part of the health and wellness conversation.
The science on the health benefits of nature time is becoming undeniable. Research is demonstrating that even small amounts of time in nature can decrease stress, improve mood, enhance immunity, improve cognition, imagination and creativity, foster healthy development, promote healthy vision, and increase focus and attention.
Check out the research:
- Interacting with Nature Improves Cognition
- The restorative benefits of nature
- Outdoor Activity during Class Recess Reduces Myopia
- Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park
- Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function
We all need to put down our devices and get outdoors!!!
Here’s our list of 10 ideas and resources for re-connecting your family to nature. We welcome you to share your ideas and add to the list!!!
- First and foremost, teach by example! Develop a personal daily practice of spending time outdoors. A walk around the neighborhood will do. One idea we love is it to match your personal screen time with equal amounts of time outdoors. Sound impossible? Begin by reducing screen time and increasing outdoor time.
- Take family walks around the neighborhood looking for birds and listening for birdsong. See how many you can identify. Purchase or download a good local bird guide.
- Create nature discovery hunts in your yard, neighborhood, or park. See how many plants, insects, trees, animals you can discover. Don’t know what they are? Learning what you’ve discovered is half the fun.
- Plant something. Anything. If you are space limited plant a window box garden or create a miniature indoor greenhouse. Have more space? A vegetable garden, butterfly garden, or any garden using native plants is a wonderful gardening experience.
- Spend time at the water’s edge. Ocean, river, creek, pond, bay — all will do. Go there at different times of the year and see and experience mother nature in all her seasons.
- Spend time outdoors barefoot. Today’s modern child is shoed from an early age and rarely spends time barefoot. Research is showing that the benefits far outweigh any risks, especially in toddlers and young children.
- Need a transition period? Bring the technology with you and begin a simple nature photography practice. Or try out geocaching but limit your visits to parks and other nature sites.
- Locate and attend events and performances that are happening outdoors in your area. Parks and botanical gardens frequently have festivals, concerts, and special events that happen outdoors.
- Join the Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connection Outdoors ICO Program. They have programs throughout the country bringing local communities together to explore and experience the outdoors.
- Finally, check out the Children & Nature Network. The Children & Nature Network is leading the movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership.
Daniel Atchison-Nevel, AP has been a practitioner of alternative medicine for over 35 years. He currently maintains a busy acupuncture practice in Miami Beach and gets outside with his grandchildren and dog Raja any chance he gets.