It is a sad day when researchers have to encourage children to be excited about playing outside. Once a place of wonder and unlimited entertainment for little people, the great outdoors has recently been encroached upon by the advent of high-tech gadgets and games. Camping and exploring the unknown with friends has taken a backseat to computer games, consoles and television – and it’s only taken one generation, according to researchers.
The alarming findings from recent studies that suggest a large number of children are missing out on nature have prompted calls to renew this significant connection with the world around them.
More than 400 British organisations – from playgroups to schools, businesses and the National Health Service – have collaborated to help kids claim back their ‘wild time’.
“The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation,” said Wild Network chairman Andy Simpson.
But aside from some misty-eyed nostalgia for eras gone by, where children roamed neighbourhoods and parks freely, the group argues there are many health benefits for kids who play outdoors.
The Wild Network argues that swapping 30 minutes of ‘screen’ time for ‘wild time’ or outdoor play, will increase children’s fitness, alertness and improve their overall wellbeing:
“With many more parents becoming concerned about the dominance of screen time in their children’s lives, and growing scientific evidence that a decline in active time is bad news for the health and happiness of our children, we all need to become marketing directors for nature,” argued Mr Simpson.
“We want parents to see what this magical wonder product does for their kids’ development, independence and creativity, by giving wild time a go.”
Many environmental groups also believe that improving kids’ connection to the natural world will help them become more active in the future of environmental conservation.
“If we can grow a generation of children that have a connection to nature and do feel a sense of oneness with it, we then have the force for the future that can save nature and stop us living in a world where nature is declining,” said Sue Armstrong-Brown of britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
So what does a connection to nature include? Here are four descriptions which researchers have offered up to help define the relationship:
– Empathy for creatures
– Having a sense of oneness with nature
– Having a sense of responsibility for the environment
– Enjoyment of nature
Do you encourage your kids to play outside? How important would you say outdoor play time is to their daily lives? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.