It’s sad but true; kids today spend more time indoors and in front of a screen than any generation that’s gone before. The result? Children’s attention spans have reduced dramatically, for some even leading to attention disorders – Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common. The rise in obesity and diabetes can also be linked to the lack of outdoor exposure and, sadly, depression in children is also on the rise [Source: ABC].
There are obviously no easy answers to a complex disorder such as ADHD but professional studies have shown that increased exposure to the outdoors results in a decrease in ADHD symptoms.
As a mother of four I’m a big believer in taking kids on day trips as well as extended camping holidays. My husband Chris and I went bush with babies as young as 10 weeks old. Really, the younger they are, the easier it is as they can go anywhere – just make sure you have the right gear. A sturdy baby carrier with back support or a toddler back pack is all you need to take your littlies to the most amazing destinations.
Nature is the best place for exploration and discovery. Kids need nature to develop powers of observation and creativity. Children who spend lots of time outdoors show more advanced motor skills, including coordination, balance and agility. One study discovered that ‘green’ kids have increased cognitive development by improving their awareness and reasoning.
But really, isn’t it just common sense? Kids who grow up experiencing the outdoors on a regular basis learn to play using their imagination and develop a genuine appreciation for nature. Unstructured play is rare these days, yet that’s exactly what kids need.
Even more astonishing is the fact that a child’s connection with nature reduces or eliminates anti-social behaviour, such as violence, bullying, vandalism and littering [Source: Children and Nature Network]. In other words, giving kids the opportunity to play outside for extended periods of time will have more effect than an anti-bullying program - food for thought?
On a more serious note, kids’ increased exposure to technology has dramatic consequences which are only now starting to become apparent: there are adverse physical, psychological and behavioural effects. Children who overuse technology report persistent body sensations of overall shaking, increased breathing and heart rate and a general state of unease. This state of continual heightened alertness can have devastating long-term effects on a child’s immune system.
Not to mention the disconnection between parents and child(ren). Teenage kids are pros when it comes to using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, but holding a conversation seems to be more and more difficult. It seems our technology-crazy society is losing the key building blocks for creating a healthy family and, ultimately, healthy and happy children.
So what does this mean for your family? Could your child(ren) benefit from a day trip to a national park or a camping holiday near the beach or in the bush? We’ll certainly continue taking our kids on camping trips because we’ve seen the amazing benefits from simply being in the outdoors. Wouldn’t it be great if Nature Deficit Disorder became a term of the past?