In addition to the information below, there are four volumes of research available at The Children and Nature Network: http://childrenandnature.org/documents/C118/
Children need at least 1 hour a day of outdoor play. Academy of Pediatrics
Need a nice-looking fact sheet to print and share, that contains quick facts but also notes research citations? National Wildlife Federation has created a great one here:
Spending time in nature makes kids happier, healthier and smarter!
Research is growing that shows frequent unstructured outdoor play in nature and frequent outdoor education helps create:
- 21st century workers with improved social, problem solving and collaborative/team building skills
- Students with improved concentration, cognitive functioning, creativity and test scores
- Athletes with improved motor skills, coordination, collaborative/team building skills
- Children who are healthier, happier and smarter!
5 Research Studies Showing Just How Much Time Kids are Spending Indoors
- Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. (Children & Nature Network, 2008)
- Less Free Time: During the last 30 years, the amount of children’s free time has declined, in favor of more structured activities. For example, between 1981-1997, unstructured outdoor activities fell by 50%. Study: Hofferth, Sandra and John Sandberg (1999), Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997, University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
- Children who spend more than 3/4s of their time engaging in sedentary behavior have up to nine times poorer motor coordination than their more active peers. (Science Daily, 2012)
- Children and Nature Worldwide Summary of Research supports dramatic need to reconnect children and youth with nature in their everyday lives. (International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2012)
5 ill health effects of an indoor, sedentary, de-natured lifestyle
- Surge in Childhood Obesity: In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than tripled. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. During the same time period, the prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%. Study: CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Division of Adolescent and School Health. Childhood Obesity. 20 Oct. 2008.
- Increased Use of Anti-Depressants in Children: The use of anti-depressants in children grew between 1998 and 2002 from 1.6% to 2.4%, an adjusted annual increase of 9.2%. The growth in antidepressant use was greater among girls (a 68% increase) than among boys (a 34% increase.) Study: Delate T, Gelenberg AJ, Simmons VA, Motheral BR. (2004) “Trends in the use of antidepressant medications in a nationwide sample of commercially insured pediatric patients, 1998-2002.” Psychiatric Services. 55(4):387-391.
- Lack of Vitamin D and Health Issues: Many children in the U.S., especially minorities, need more Vitamin D. Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, protecting children from bone problems and other health issues. Study: American Academy of Pediatrics. Many Children have suboptimal Vitamin D Levels, Pediatrics. October 26, 2009.
- Increase in Poor Eyesight/Myopia: Myopia is much more common today in the United States and many other countries than it was in the 1970s. In parts of Asia, more than 80 percent of the population is nearsighted. The analysis suggests that more exposure to natural light and/or time spent looking at distant objects may be key factors. “More Time Outdoors May Reduce Kids’ Risk for Nearsightedness,” American Academy of Ophalmology. October 24, 2011.
- Increased Use of Ritalin in Children: In 2000, one out of every eight American children was taking Ritalin for treatment of behavioral disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Researchers hypothesized that an increase in television viewing, as well as greater academic pressure at an earlier age, was contributing to increased usage.Study: Sax, Leonard, Ritalin – Better Living Through Chemistry? The World and I. Nov. 1, 2000.
5 published benefits of nature play
Decrease in obesity:
Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese get fit. CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Division of Adolescent and School Health. Childhood Obesity. 20 Oct. 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/obesity
Decrease in depression and stress
Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships. Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A. K., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Can nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1315-1329.
Decrease in myopia:
Being out there improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness. What’s Hot in Myopia Research-The 12th International Myopia Conference, Australia, July 2008. http://journals.lww.com/optvissci/Fulltext/2009/01000/What_s_Hot_in_Myopia_Research_The_12th.2.aspx
Decrease in Vitamin D deficiency:
Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues. American Academy of Pediatrics. Many Children have suboptimal Vitamin D Levels, Pediatrics. October 26, 2009. http://www.aap.org/
Decrease in the symptoms of ADHD:
Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing symptoms. Wells, N.M. (2000). At home with nature: Effects of greenness on children’s cognitive functioning. Environment and Behavior (32), 6, pp 775-795. http://eab.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/32/6/775