Children in Nature
Trails provide important opportunities for children and their families to access, experience and learn about nature. Our failure to ensure that children have rich connections with nature has led to what Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and founder of the Children and Nature Network, terms Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv points out that a generation growing up with little or no experience in the natural world is exhibiting exploding rates of psychological and physical problems.
All too often, we prescribe new medications rather than fresh air. Yet nature can be even more powerful than pharmaceuticals in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), clinical depression, obesity and other near epidemic diseases. The challenge to act resides in all of us. We need to find creative and engaging ways to capture the interest of children and their parents in the magic of the natural world. We need to toss these ideas out to communities, where they can help them grow and flourish.
“Our society is teaching young people to avoid direct experience in nature. That lesson is delivered in schools, families, even organizations devoted to the outdoors, and codified in the legal and regulatory structures of many of our communities. Our institutions, urban/suburban design, and cultural attitudes unconsciously associate nature with doom, while disassociating the outdoors from joy and solitude. Well-meaning public-school systems, media, and parents are effectively scaring children straight out of the woods and fields. In the patent-or-parish environment of higher education, we see the death of natural history as the more hands-on disciplines, such as zoology, give way to more theoretical and remunerative microbiology and genetic engineering. As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and this reduces the richness of human experience. Several studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders and other maladies. As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.”
- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Source: Alberta Recreation and Parks Association – Children in Nature: Report from the Dialogue on Children in Nature – Alberta Edition
- Children & Nature Network – Information and reports to assist anyone with an interest in getting kids outdoors.
- Children & Nature Network: Natural Leaders Program – A program aimed at getting teens outdoors by recruiting youth and young adults to act as leaders.
- Outdoors Alliance for Kids – A partnership of organizations with the common interest in expanding the quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors.
- Maryland State Parks: Youth at Risk story – Article from The Baltimore Sun on teens in Maryland exchanging a summer’s worth of labour in the outdoors for life lessons and a paycheque.
- EurekAlert: Pediatricians Can Help Parents Recognize Overweight Preschoolers – Article on parents’ perceptions of childhood obesity.
- CTV News: Parks Test Out Wireless Internet for Campers – Article on debate over adding wireless Internet services to parks.
- NRPA Newsletter: Kalamazoo Praised for Linking Kids With Nature – Story on getting kids outdoors.
- NRPA: Insurer Shares N.C. Strategy to Slim Kids Down – Article on health insurance company programs to fight childhood obesity.
- Optimizing Your Environmental Education Programs – The Alberta Council for Environmental Education provides workshops planned in Edmonton.
- Recreation Management Magazine: Podcasts to Reach Residents – Article on producing podcasts to promote park visits.
- Lifestyle Information Network (LIN): Ikea Play Report – A report on the major research-driven project to investigate the subjects of children’s development and play.
Source: Alberta Recreation and Parks Association