My recent blog about nature deficit disorder touched a nerve with several folks who agreed that we need to make it a priority to get our kids outside and connected to nature. Many research studies show that children derive great health benefits from spending time in nature, including the release of anxiety, lowering of blood pressure and a decrease in obesity, diabetes and some of the problems associated with attention deficit disorder. Not to mention – being out in the sun is the best way to get vitamin D, which most of our kids are now deficient in!
I was very interested to read a 2007 study done in England that tracked four generations of the Thomas family to determine how a child’s freedom to roam has been affected over the years. In 1926, George Thomas, age 8, walked everywhere and was allowed to walk unaccompanied as far as six miles to his favorite fishing hole. (George today is still an avid walker in his 80s).
In 1950, George’s son-in-law, Jack, age 8, was allowed to walk a mile to his local woods to play and walked to school unattended. In 1979, Jack’s daughter, Vicky, age 8, could ride her bike freely in her neighborhood and walk to school and to the swimming pool about ½ mile away. She still had freedom to roam but the size of the area she could explore alone had shrunk from that of her grandfather.
Now fast forward to the present and see how Vicky’s son and great-grandson of George spends his day. Edward is driven to school each day and also driven by car to a safe place for him to ride his bike. He is allowed to roam no more than about 300 yards from his home. And even if he had more freedom, he would not have playmates to join him because the other children in the neighborhood are under similar restrictions.
So, in four generations of tracking the same family in England, we can get a picture of how a child’s freedom to roam has been dramatically curtailed – from six miles to 300 yards! Of course there are many reasons for this. We live in a far less rural society. Traffic is a great concern. Heightened attention to “stranger danger” has made parents more protective of their children and their safety. There are less opportunities to experience nature as urban and suburban development has increased.
What is a parent to do? We need to find ways to ensure our children get outside to enjoy the many benefits of a connection with nature. How do we get our kids to unplug from electronics and be excited about exploring the world outside? In the weeks ahead, I’ll write about how to make your own back yard a kid-friendly garden that will entice your kids outside again and again.
For some ideas on activities to enjoy with your children in our local state parks, go to
http://www.getoutdoorsgeorgia.org At this website, you can plug in the activity you are interested in and your zip code and a variety of opportunities will be provided to you. Maybe you have some ideas about what to do to get kids connected to nature and want to share them. Leave a comment after this blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to share your thoughts with our Fayette Woman family.