If you're a parent today, you've noticed that your child's childhood doesn't look like yours did.
Your child probably has a busier schedule than you did, at the expense of that unstructured free time that kid need so much. In fact, kids' free time dropped by 38% between 1979 and 1999. And as the scheduler, chauffeur or manager of your child's activities, your time gets carved up all too easily. Kids today are so accustomed to being overscheduled, they will often compete over who is busiest with their peers. Even parents gloat over coffee, on the playground or at the gym about how "busy" their children are.
When they do have free time, kids gravitate to screens— indoors—playing video games, catching up on the latest memes, "connecting" with friends or following their favorite influencers. Today, kids spend 4-7 minutes playing outside each day. That's a drastic change from when their parents were kids. Some have started to call this phenomenon "the great indoor migration."
Kids spend 4-7 minutes playing outside each day.
In a short period of time, childhood has evolved into something most of us don't recognize. And while you know that you're trying the best you can, it feels like childhood today is somehow being too heavily shaped at the expense of a freer childhood—by nature.
We're experiencing "the great indoor migration" of childhood.
The sad truth is that a free form childhood often spent in nature is an exception, rather than a norm today. But children need nature in their lives. And not just to become a budding naturalist. An expanding body of research continuously tells us that nature helps children develop- academically, emotionally, socially, physically. The benefits of outdoor time range from intellectual growth to lessening symptoms of ADHD, improving eyesight and executive functioning.
Nature deficit disorder is having a serious and lasting effect on our kids. This generation is expected to suffer chronic diseases from a lack of fitness or a surplus of sedentary habits. They will live shorter lives than their parents. They will develop mental health problems. Experts say that kids have never been weaker, less balanced and less coordinated than they are today.
But does it have to be this way? Is there another alternative? What if we brought childhood back to a natural pace, in a natural setting, back to nature?
Parents believe that nature is crucial for kids— 94% of parents agree it's important that schools also help kids to discover nature. And 58% of moms say they try regularly get their kids outside to discover nature whenever they can.
Of course, there are many reasons for the great indoor migration, from screens to schedules, safety concerns, schools. But let's start with what you can do NOW to reverse these damaging trends. You don't have to wait for your school or community or camp counselors, though it is certainly important for all forces in our children's lives to understand the importance of making drastic changes. As your child's main caretaker, you have the power to ensure your child is not part of another "alarming statistic." If you care enough to be here, to read this piece, you can do it. And we're here to help.