The amount of time children spend outside in nature has decreased significantly over the years, while the amount of time spent in front of entertainment devices has increased. It is said that the average American child spends less than 30 minutes a day outside in unstructured play but spends more than seven hours a day in front of an electronic screen.
Whether you grew up in the city, in the suburbs, or in the country, chances are you probably spent time outside playing and exploring. Maybe you climbed trees in the backyard or rode bicycles down the street to the corner store or played ball in the vacant lot.
Unfortunately, young children today do not have as much interaction with nature as previous generations and it’s taking a toll. Childhood obesity rates have doubled and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants have risen tremendously.
In his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the then-controversial theory that detachment from the outdoors results in poor physical and mental health for both adults and children.
While not a recognized medical condition, Nature Deficit Disorder has gained scientific traction. Since his book, hundreds of studies have shown a connection between exposure to the outdoors and better health, as well as better learning and cognitive development, among children.
According to a 2010 report released by the National Wildlife Federation, Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body, and Spirit Through Outdoor Play, the benefits of nature can be seen on many levels. The report contends that outdoor play increases fitness and builds active, healthy bodies, raises levels of Vitamin D to protect against a myriad of childhood health problems, and improves vision.
Exposure to nature may also be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. Outdoor play reduces children’s’ stress, anxiety, and depression levels, while enhancing a child’s social skills and ability to form relationships.
The reports also contends that children that participate in outdoor environmental education programs score higher in math, reading, writing, and listening skills, and significantly increases critical thinking among students.
Flamingo Gardens has been at the forefront of providing environmental education for almost 40 years, providing fieldtrips to about 28,000 school children annually. But we can do more!
That’s why Flamingo Gardens’ Environmental Education programs are more important than ever. We are working hard to reach urban children that are the least likely to be exposed to nature. In partnerships with schools and foundations, we bring over 30,000 children to Flamingo Gardens on field trips each year, and take our outreach programs on the road to schools that can’t come visit us.