As parents, we’re constantly told that too much screen time is bad. We’re told of all the negative reasons why we need to cut the cords and un-glue our children’s eyes from fast-moving digital stimuli.
And as parents, we get it.
We understand why too much screen time is bad. We understand we should get them off the couch and into the great outdoors. But do we understand that nature play has more benefits than simply being an alternative to screen time?
Nature play for children has multiple lifelong benefits not only for our children but also for our planet! Here’s how:
Children who spend more time in nature and with wildlife have better brain and overall development. In other words, they grow to be more well-rounded people.
While there are many benefits of nature play for children, let’s take a look at the top ways:
1. Provides Physical Activity
According to the AACAP, children ages 8-12 spend 4-6 hours on screens every day. This is causing kids to become too sedentary, which, in turn, can lead to sleep problems, unhealthy weight, and insecurity issues.
The CDC recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. However, as we’ll learn from the following benefits, the type of physical activity matters.
Any physical activity is good. Unstructured physical activity out in nature is even better.
2. Promotes Imagination & Creativity
Studies have also shown that kids who spend more time outdoors in nature do better in academics such as math, science, technology, and the arts. This is likely because there are no fixed rules to follow.
With nature play, children are free to make their guidelines and games. Such opportunities are great for creating and using their imagination which is vital to proper cognitive development.
3. Helps Build Problem-Solving Abilities
When children are involved in unstructured play, it helps them solve problems such as who goes first and what rules should be followed.
Of course, you will want to supervise the play for younger children. However, try to give kids a chance to work together on resolving problems before stepping in.
4. Develops Higher Levels of Social & Emotional Intelligence
Unstructured nature play helps teach teamwork and social skills. The children must learn to take turns, share, listen to each other, make decisions, and create imaginary scenarios.
Since the kids are creating the playtime, it allows ample time to learn independently among their peers.
5. Inspires Appreciation of Nature & Wildlife
The importance of nature play in early childhood is clear, but how does it relate to conservation? It’s simple. The more you can get children involved with nature, the better off both will be.
If you can get your kids interested in nature and wildlife, they will want to get involved to help make the world a better place. Perhaps they’ll want to plant more trees, or maybe they’ll want to support wildlife initiatives by preserving different species of animals.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how they decide to help. The important thing is they want to help.
Nature play nurtures kids to be happy, healthy, and caring. What more could we want as a parent?
So, don’t just turn off the screens for the sake of screen time. Turn off the screens and turn up the nature play. Your kids (and our planet) will thank you for it.