Simple Cures for Your Family’s Nature-Deficit Disorder
Montanans are lucky to live in the “last best place.” Most of us are just an hour or two from multiple outdoor recreation opportunities on lakes, rivers, and streams. We have easy access to dozens of local, state, and national parks.
In our natural wonderland, is it possible that young Montanans are suffering from the condition that author Richard Louv has named “nature-deficit disorder?” Sadly, the answer is yes. Like their counterparts across the US, our children are spending more time plugged into some type of indoor technology and less time in natural outdoor activities.
“Experts in child health, behavior, and education are just beginning to document how important unstructured outdoor time is for young bodies and minds,” said Jessica Grennan, State Health Alliances Director for the American Heart Association in Montana. “A 2005 study by Kaiser Family Foundation found that Generation M (for media) spends over 44 hours per week in front of screens – and little or no time exploring the natural world around them. Rapid increases in the number of overweight children is just one of the problems that develops from our sedentary lifestyles.”
As the video game generation has become ‘de-natured,’ some researchers have begun to look at what may be missing when green space is replaced with screen space. According to the National Wildlife Federation, studies indicate that kids who regularly spend unstructured time outside:
- Play more creatively and have more active imaginations.
- Have lower stress levels and may experience fewer symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Become fitter and leaner while developing stronger immune systems.
- Have greater respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment.
While connecting with nature is no magic cure-all for what ails American children, spending quality outdoor time together can have some serious benefits for Montana families. “Summertime is the ideal time to get your family into the Green Hour habit,” Grennan said. “The term ‘green hour’ was coined by the National Wildlife Federation to help parents focus on 60 minutes of unstructured play and interaction with the natural world. Current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics also reinforce the need for daily family-focused, active playtime.”
Think that your family is just too busy for green time? Think about your memories of outdoor fun – climbing trees with friends, hiking with dad, or fishing with mom – and reconnect with nature today:
- Connect with nature in your neighborhood. A backyard birdfeeder or a simple magnifying glass are inexpensive ways to help children observe the natural world within an arm’s reach.
- Connect with nature in Montana parks. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wants to be your outdoor vacation destination. Search http://fwp.mt.gov/parks/ for parks and fun events.
- Connect with nature in Yellowstone National Park. Online and in person, NPS has special programs and materials for kids. Visit www.nps.gov/yell/forkids/index.htm for more information.
Reprinted with the permission of the Montana Workforce Services Division.
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