Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Magic of Getting Outside

In 2005, Richard Louv coined the term "nature deficit disorder". Nature deficit disorder is the trend of children spending less and less time outdoors than the generations before them. With the onset of television and other screens, increased fear about the known and unknown dangers of our world, and less access to areas of nature we end up spending more time inside than outside. There has not been a lot written on nature deficit disorder nor is it yet recognized by the American Psychiatric Association's DSM. Regardless of this, though, we can all admit that the age of technology has pushed us to spend more time in front of screens and less time outdoors and there is a lot of research to back this up.

Statistics can be scary. In 2010, the Oregonian reported that the average 8-18 year old spends more than seven hours in front of a screen daily- close to 30% of their day. There are many benefits to getting our kids outside. It's believed that children who play outside more get sick less and have better concentration. They are less likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, aggression, or stress disorders as well. While many of these claims may seem obvious, we still see neglect when it comes to getting kids outside. Even child care centers often bring screens in rather than getting kids out.

At Tumbleweeds, we are committed to getting kids outside. Though in the infant cohort this is not always as easily done as it is said it's still a daily goal for us to get out. As our rhythm settles more and more, this will happen naturally as part of our day. Personally, I can't wait. We are fortunate to have such a large and amazing space at the infant house that really lets children explore and gain confidence in being outside. There are many areas to dig, climb, run, and whatever else we can dream up. The same is true for the preschool house, especially now that we have the new climbing structure!

Something I have always seen to be true with each cohort is the magic of going outside. With the preschoolers whenever it felt a little crazy, we found peace and contentment by heading outside. The other day in the infant classroom we were all in a rut. One child would cry and everyone else would begin to cry as well. Nothing was really working to get us back to a good place.

Finally, I realized we just needed a change of scenery to help us all feel better. RM helped us get into the stroller and go for a walk with her as she headed back to the preschool house. The magic of outside hit us right away. As soon as we were in the stroller and out of the yard, everyone was quiet and calm. If nothing else, we as humans need nature. It's as important to us as water and food.

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