Why Kids Should Experience Nature

Hours spent inside and on screens can take a toll on children’s health. See how they can benefit from the outdoors.

Why Kids Should Experience Nature

In 1950’s TV shows such as Lassie and The Andy Griffith Show, the young boys Timmy (Jon Provost) and Opie (Ron Howard) were always running around outside saving people or going fishing. Having fun or encountering danger (Timmy’s in the well!), they were outside a lot. Today, for city and suburban kids to spend time outside, things have to be planned and supervised. And hours and hours are spent indoors on screens for school, play and socializing. That puts a strain on kids.

According to a recent study from the University of Hong Kong, 16 percent of preschoolers in Hong Kong and up to 22 percent in China show signs of mental health problems. And the numbers are almost identical here. According to the CDC, one in five (that’s 20 percent) of American children ages 3 through 17—about 15 million—have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in any given year. What can be done?

Members of the World Health Organization met in Parma, Italy, in 2010 and came up with the Parma Declaration to help improve children’s physical and mental health. One solution: To decrease the current epidemic of nature-deficit and child-nature-disconnectedness, because research has clearly shown that being connected to nature—or not—affects a child psychological functioning and well-being.

So, every day, help your child spend time in a park, green space or recreation area. You’ll see improvement in mood, attention, sleep quality and schoolwork! And chances are you’ll have fun too! You can track your physical activity in the outdoors with the Sharecare app for iOS and Android.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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