Is Your Child Getting Enough Nature?

Amy Rees
March 23, 2009

You strive for a balanced diet for your kids, a happy mix of time with the whole family together and separate outings, a juggled trick of work, life, routine, fun. But wait -- just where is all this "doing" doing? Indoors, most likely. And there's another ball to add in: is your child getting enough nature?

We at Savvy are the last people to toss you more than you can keep in mid-air, but we do think this is an essential check-in, a spring cleaning moment for the family. How much time does your little one spend outside? Are there at least short periods of time each day when he plays outside? Does she sometimes, every so often, get a chance to walk, to climb a tree, to look for a ladybug? Do you sometimes brave the elements just for fun? Could you do it more, even just a little bit?

It was Richard Louv who first crystallized the problem defining our kids' lives, whether in city, suburb or exurb. His arguments in Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder grabbed national attention -- and galvanized parents to add daily doses of unstructured outside play to their children's vitamin intake.  

From Louv's diagnosis of the "disorder" came Jennifer Ward's splendid call to action, I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature. (Smartly, Amazon offers a bundled price for Ward's book and the Savvy favorite by Amanda Soule, A Creative Family.) Dirt and its delights was also the recent topic of a New York Times piece -- which you really ought to read just to see your reaction to the play-outside-and-don't-wash-your-hands theory! More seriously, the findings about what immediate and profound help some exposure to nature offered for older kids with attention problems piqued our interest. Our little ones are just learning to sit still in circle time, just struggling to make it through all the pages of a story. Are their struggles intensified by their indoor lives? Would being outside more be not just fun but also restorative to their little minds?

All of these arguments and research make us stop, snap closed our ever-present Purell and take a second to think. First we think that we're glad our preschoolers can't read for themselves the Times's suggestion of getting two dogs and a cat! Then we think that we can do it. We can shake things up a bit and get our wee ones some fresh air play!

But how?

The treasure trove of Savvy activities offers a rich section on The Great Outdoors

Our careful, Savvy selection of science books and toys get your kiddos outside exploring and experimenting -- and brings a connection to the outside in where needed too! 

Perhaps some family goals are in order. One head of school we know "assigns" her students a summer project of catching, cleaning, cooking, and eating a fish. You could make a list and pin it to the fridge: climb a tree, find a worm, pick an apple, roll down a grassy hill, jump in twenty puddles. There, now you've got nature chores -- all of you!

As always, our best inspiration comes from Ginger Carlson's Child of Wonder, who fills a whole chapter ("Wonder World") on creativity outdoors, chock full of ideas to get your out the door pronto!

So, as your mother always told you: go outside and play!

From the Parents

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