Some say it takes a village to raise a child. We say it takes a backyard, a playground, a park.
Join NCCAN! In our mission to get kids outside, running, and playing.
Studies show outdoor time helps children grow lean and strong, enhances imaginations and attention spans, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance. In addition, children who spend time in nature regularly are shown to become better stewards of the environment.
Fast Facts About Outdoor Time and Children
Today’s children may be the first generation at risk of having a shorter lifespan than their parents. The shift to a more sedentary lifestyle has physical, social, psychological and environmental implications for a wide range of concerns that will affect our society for many years to come.
Why Has This Issue Sparked So Much Concern?
- Obesity and other physical health issues such as diabetes and heart disease
- Attention-deficit disorder and other learning problems
- Anti-social behavior and violence
- Lack of caring and concern for nature
- Alienation from community
- Impacts on social and emotional intelligence
- Decreased linguistic, sensory and imaginative capacity
- Diminished sense of awe and wonder
In his recent book, the Nature Principle, Richard Louv focuses both on the issues and growing optimism that our generation will meet not only climate change, but the “change of climate in the human heart” and enter one of the most creative periods in human history.
Why “Unstructured Play”?
Research shows that unstructured time in nature is critical to developing children’s intellectual, social, emotional and creative capacities. Structured activities such as sports, scouts, field trips, and curriculum-driven school gardens play a valuable role, but they cannot replace the brain development and emotional growth that occurs during self-directed play.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), undirected play builds physical strength and is important for brain development. Play allows children to use their creativity and imaginations. And undirected play helps children to learn to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts and learn self-advocacy skills.
For more research about the benefits of nature, visit the Children & Nature Network.
In North Carolina, where more than 32 percent of children aged 6-12 are overweight or obese (source: Trust for America’s Health) and more than 8 percent of those aged 4-17 have at some point been diagnosed with ADHD (source: CDC.gov), the need for a nature-based culture shift is clear.
Did you know?
As of 1990, the radius around the home where children were allowed to roam on their own had shrunk to one-ninth of what it had been in 1970, along with an increase in structured “free time.” Lack of knowledge, busy schedules, limited access to nature, fear of strangers, popularity of video games, TV, and computers, perceived safety risks, fear of lawsuits and loss of recess periods are all contributing factors. By keeping childhood indoors, we are depriving children of a full connection to the world. The implications for children’s physical and mental health, for the future of our natural resources, and even for our communities’ economies, are far-reaching.NCCAN! was formed in response to the growing concern over these issues. Forward thinking and creative individuals and organizations — teachers, parents, health professionals, environmentalists, businesses, farmers, and community leaders — are engaged in a worldwide movement to create a positive impact on the health of children, families, communities, and the Earth.