Modern children are living an indoor childhood. And it is taking a toll on the health of families, communities, and the world at large.
In a stark diversion from our ancestral ways, parents are now raising children with fear, aversion, and misunderstanding about the natural world. Sadly, the planet is suffering as a consequence.
Local, national, and international conservation efforts are strengthened by the resolve of people who care. And we now have several generations of people who no longer care about plants, animals, landscapes, and wild places. Instead, a love of technology and “progress” has replaced an innate adoration of nature.
But luckily, we can turn the tide on this overarching trend. And the recipe is simple: let kids outdoors! Here are my top reasons why getting children in nature can help heal the planet:
Reason #1. Outdoor experiences create memories
We cannot expect people to care about nature when they’ve never experienced it. Childhood experiences are what shape our attitudes and beliefs as adults. Just like some adults love racing cars or collecting trinkets, a passion and love of nature only comes by having spent time in the woods, rivers, and fields during childhood.
Reason #2. Caring requires environmental familiarity
It is hard to care for something that you don’t understand. Getting children out in nature allows kids a chance to touch, taste, see, smell, and feel the natural world. That sensory excitement makes a lasting impression that persists across a lifetime. Think for a moment of the smell of leaves in the fall, or the feel of a snowball in your hands. There’s a familiarity there, a relationship. And that childhood memory of the great outdoors allows future adults to care a whole lot more.
Reason #3. Nature connection fosters compassion
Kindness and compassion are learned. Children who are taught to care for plants and animals display greater degrees of empathy, affection, and concern for others. Especially in the case of animals, these interactions appear to stir something in children that allows them to see and understand the needs of others. Such a shift in perspective plants the seed for compassion and encourages reverence for other living (and perhaps, non-living) beings.
Reason #4. Eco-spirituality leads to hope
A child stepping into nature is connecting to something bigger and grander than herself. The trees, wind, sky, and sun all offer a chance to pause, reflect, and unplug from the noise of modern living. Having a spiritual moment in the outdoors simply requires mindful awareness of the connection between our inner and outer worlds. Even in dark or troubling times children can feel that connection in nature and it can show them the face of hope, inspiration, and love.
Goodall, J., & Berman, P. (1999). Reason for hope: A spiritual journey. Grand Central Publishing.
Landrigan, P. J., & Etzel, R. A. (Eds.). (2013). Textbook of children’s environmental health. Oxford University Press.
Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin Books.
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