Monday, December 6, 2010

No Child Left Inside: Letting Nature Nurture

After we talk about excessive online activity and obesity in our young people, let's think about getting our kids back to nature.  At the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics the keynote speaker was Richard Louv who makes the case for getting our kids outside.  He has coined the phrase "nature deficit disorder" and on his website, Children and Nature, he cites scientific literature and posts oodles of opportunities for kids to get outside, no matter where they live.  There is even a downloadable prescription pad for pediatricians to prescribe outdoor play. It says:
  • Go outside and play in nature.
  • Limit your “Screen Time” to no more than 60 mins each day.
  • Read stories about nature.
  • (Or have someone read them to you.)
Another speaker at the same conference enjoined listeners to help parents have permission to "bring back boredom" to allow kids to daydream and be more creative.  Planting seeds, playing in the snow, looking at the sky, listening to the birds, smelling the air: it doesn't have to be very complicated.  What seems "boring" will feed the imagination if we allow it to speak.

We are all searching for ways to treat the anxieties that we see in our patients, students and children.  Many agree, at least anecdotally, that too much time is spent in sedentary activities.  A recent survey by the American Psychological Association on stress noted that "tweens and teens report that they turn to sedentary behaviors to make themselves feel better when they are really worried or stressed, such as listening to music (36 percent of tweens and 66 percent of teens), playing video games (56 percent of tweens and 41 percent of teens) or watching TV (34 percent of tweens and 30 percent of teens)." 

Perhaps the panacea lies in the notion of getting kids off the couch and into the outdoors.   This may afford them the best chance of avoiding the metaphorical "couch" treatment for their mental health. 

image from

1 comment:

  1. What an excellent post. I couldn't agree more. Send your children outdoors parents. They will learn about the wonders of nature, to problem solve, to be creative thinkers and to be risk takers. My doctor predicted that melanoma will soon be unheard of but it will be replaced with disorders that stem from a sedentary lifestyle.