Why our children (and grandchildren) need to be outdoors.
When the vision for our farm was being discussed, we talked a lot about the need to make it an interesting place, a beautiful place.....and a fun place. One of our themes has been "teaching the next generation to grow their own healthy, organic food".
To date, we have had the opportunity to host schools, home-school groups, civic groups and families at our lovely farm for field trips and workshops, with close to 500 children attending. We believe getting kids outdoors doing something constructive (and fun) and being exposed to nature is vital to their overall development and important for their mental and physical health. The Z Generation (1996-2010) or post millennials and the now dubbed Alpha Generation (2011-2025) ....kids, will be the most technologically advanced humans ever. That comes at what price?
There have been volumes written today about the effects on children of spending all of their time indoors, in front of a screen, playing games or on social media. We raised four children, so I clearly understand the value of "keeping them busy" to maintain your sanity. In a recent article in Childmind.org., they talk about this and it has actually been given a name......"Nature Deficit Disorder". Their mission is......"The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders." In the article, written by Danielle Cohen, she suggests some of the benefits of getting kids OUTSIDE and enjoying nature:
- It builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.
- It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
- It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant, or pull a flower out by its roots.
- It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow,” Louv warns, “and this reduces the richness of human experience.”
- It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Your kid doesn’t have to be joining the local soccer team or riding a bike through the park—even a walk will get her blood pumping. Not only is exercise good for kids’ bodies, but it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for kids with ADHD.
- It makes them think. Louv says that nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occur naturally in backyards and parks everyday make kids ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
- It reduces stress and fatigue. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.
She also mentions the work and research done by Richard Louv in his book titled "Last child in the woods: Saving our children from Nature Deficit Disorder". I would encourage parents to do their own research, but it's clear to me that being intentional about getting children outdoors is a healthy choice......mind, soul and body!
At Abby's farm we currently have about 40 families that are weekly volunteers, with around 20 children (and young adults) that are learning to grow their own healthy organic food. They run, play, work and have fun in a beautiful, safe environment. We would love to have you join us, so go to the links below to learn more or sign up. Be intentional about getting your kids outdoors in the beauty that nature has provided and take a break (regularly) from screens and media.