In the early 1980’s, Harvard University biologist names Edward.O. Wilson proposed a theory called ‘biophilic’ that humans are instinctively drawn towards their natural surroundings.
Many 21st century parents would however question this theory as they witness their kids express a clear preference for ‘sitting on a couch in front of a screen (television/ I-pad/ cell phones)’ over playing outside. The parents also fear about the disease and the safety of their children playing outside.
Recent studies have exposed the benefits, even necessity, of spending time outdoor for kids. These studies agree that kids who play outside are smarter happier and less anxious than the kids who spend time indoors.
Playing outdoors has benefits like:
Building confidence: There are infinite ways to interact with the outdoor environment from park to local hiking trail or beach and letting kids know how to treat nature (means they have the power to control their actions).
Promoting creativity and imagination: Kids can think more freely, design their own activities and approach the world in inventive ways.
Teaching responsibility: Living things die if not taken care of properly and entrusting a child to take care of living parts of environment means they will learn what happens when they forget to water a plant or pull a flower by its roots.
Providing different stimulations: Nature may seem less entertaining than the violent and addicting on-screen games but in reality, it activates more senses- they can see, hear, smell and feel the nature.
Getting exercise: One of the most important benefits of interacting with nature is getting more exercise than sitting on the couch. Exercises are not only good for the body but also make them more focused which is especially good for kids with ADHD, Autism.
Making them think: Nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occurs in parks and beaches everyday makes them ask questions about the earth and the life it supports.
Reducing stress and fatigue: Being outside kids feel good. They run, jump, hop, climb, roll and shout which relaxes and reduces tension, anxiety and restlessness. Nature enhances a sense of peace and often brings out nurturing qualities in children.
Our children are the future stewards of the earth. In order to raise adults who are passionate about protecting the environment and preserving our planet they must first develop a deep love for it. The only way to enable children to grow comfortable in nature is to open the door and let them explore the wonders and awe of the natural world.
Dr Pushkala. M.S.
MBBS, MD (Pediatrics), PGDID (UNSW- Australia)