Kids (and adults) these days have what Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods” calls “nature deficit disorder”.
We spend far too much time indoors playing games on smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices and far too little time outside.
I’m guilty of it, too, and I have to both schedule time for my family to go outside and remind myself of the health benefits of going outside.
Louv believes that “the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable”.
He writes that, “In the most nature-deprived corners of our world, we can see the rise of what might be called cultural autism.
Tunneled senses and feelings of isolation and containment.”
One of my goals for my family is to reduce my boys’ “cultural autism”.
By reminding myself of these health benefits of going outside and scheduling time for it, I hope to get my kids more in touch with nature, both for their health and that of the Earth.
Clint Ober, author of “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever!“, says that having direct access to the Earth improves our health by filling our electron deficiency, which leads to inflammation. Inflammation is a key component of any chronic disease or disorder, such as autism, ADHD, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, heart disease and cancer.
Because we wear rubber-soled shoes and drive in cars with rubber tires, we are disconnected from the Earth’s energy supply.
The simple act of walking barefoot on the beach or grass can help, which is one of the reasons people relax so much more when they go to the beach or spend time working in the garden.
Did you know that kids who live and work on farms have far less allergies, asthma and autoimmune disorders?
Researchers theorize that this is due to exposure to a wider variety of both beneficial and pathogenic bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses.
In today’s too-clean environment, our kids lack access to these microbes that can both train the immune system how to fight and give it the tools it needs to fight.
Numerous studies have documented the link between a vitamin D deficiency and autism and other autoimmune disorders.
Vitamin D is manufactured in the body when sunlight hits the cholesterol in the skin, so less time outside has a direct correlation with vitamin D production.
I encourage you to let your kids play outside without sunscreen for at least 10 minutes before applying a nontoxic sunscreen.
In fact, the more your child plays outside in the sun, the less likely he or she may need sunscreen.
There is a therapeutic mental, emotional and even spiritual benefit to going outside in being in nature.
By doing so, we become more in sync with natural rhythms such as sunrise/sunset, ocean tides and seasonal changes.
I would argue that being outside can also be a form of meditation, which is relaxing in and of itself.
Increased Gross Motor Skills
Kids can learn balance, coordination and agility by playing outside.
Riding a bike, climbing a tree and playing ball are kid-friendly activities that many kids naturally do outside that also improve their gross motor skills and proprioceptive skills.
Kids who spend more time indoors are deprived of a large variety of sensory stimulation.
Think of how relaxing it is to listen to birds chirping, crickets humming or waves lapping.
Notice how soothing it is to look at the greens of summers, vivid spring colors, golden fall colors or even a white and blue winter landscape.
Remember how getting wet, cold or hot can color your experience of a situation.
Think of the smell of newly mowed grass or pungent, rich earth.
Kids who aren’t getting outside enough won’t have these kinds of experiences and will miss out on much that the Earth has to offer.
This study shows that kids’ brains develop faster if they have more exposure to the outside world.
The researchers wrote that “contact with nature is thought to play a crucial and irreplaceable role in brain development” in areas “such as inciting engagement, risk-taking, discovery, creativity, mastery and control, strengthening sense of self, inspiring basic emotional states including sense of wonder, and enhancing psychological restoration.”
Those are some pretty powerful reasons!