By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on April 20, 2017.
Research shows children benefit from connection with nature
Leading up to annual Earth Day on Saturday, Vancouver is playing host to a conference this week that aims to get children out of the house and into nature.
The Children & Nature Network International Conference features more than 850 international leaders and activists from 22 countries whose goal is to create a world in which all children benefit from contact with nature in their daily lives.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation, which is co-hosting the conference, said in a news release Wednesday that children today spend about 90 per cent of their time indoors. For the first time in human history, there are more people living in urban areas than in the country, and the trend has serious implications for children’s healthy development, and the health of natural places, says the federation.
“Science increasingly tells us that time in nature has the power to make children healthier, happier and smarter,” Sarah Milligan-Toffler, executive director of the Children & Nature Network, said in the news release.
Getting kids more connected to nature stands to pay dividends for nature itself.
“Connecting new generations to the natural world is critical to the success of wildlife and habitat conservation and restoration efforts today and in the future,” says Rick Bates, CEO of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
The two goals – conservation and getting kids involved in nature – are in a symbiotic relationship. The more children feel an affinity for nature, the more likely they will grow up to be adults who work to preserve natural surroundings. And the more nature is preserved, the more opportunities there will be for people to connect with nature. There’s no better time to become acquainted with nature than when we’re young.
The Audubon Nature Preschool notes, “Children are born naturalists. They explore the world with all of their senses, experiment in the environment, and communicate their discoveries to those around them.”
Unfortunately, kids are spending increasingly less time exploring nature. There’s even a term for it: nature deficit disorder.
In an article titled “Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature” which appears on the Child Mind Institute website, Danielle Cohen writes: “Recent studies have exposed the benefit – even necessity – of spending time outdoors, both for kids and adults. She goes on to point out several ways in which children benefit from time in nature: it builds confidence; it promotes creativity and imagination; it teaches responsibility; it provides different stimulation; it gets kids moving; it teaches them to think.
Thomas Berry, in the book “The Dream of the Earth,” says, “Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.”
Famed scientist Albert Einstein once noted: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
We could all use more of that. Now that spring has arrived, it’s a perfect time to spend more time outdoors to appreciate the wonders of nature. Let’s also encourage our kids to get to know nature, too. It will be to their benefit.
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