Green Hearts Inc. a nonprofit devoted to restoring the bond between children and naturehas a fantastic resource, "The Parents Guide to Nature Play". The guide features some great insights on how to get outdoors and experience nature with your children, and some powerful insights on culturally what has occurred to diminish outdoor play. Below are some key ideas we loved in the guide.
No one intentionally removed “nature play” from childhood, but several key changes have happened over the past 25 to 30 years.
1. We’ve become more urbanized. Today, children’s access to green play spaces is often more distant and/or more dangerous than it was in the past.
2. Children’s free time has diminished due to longer school days and many more after-school activities, such as team sports, music lessons, tutoring, church groups, etc.
3. Parental fears have been magnified by “24/7” media coverage of all dangers to children, whether they are sunburns, bee stings, coyotes, or crime. Most are exaggerated, but few parents can ignore the steady flow of worrisome news.
4. We also fear lawsuits. It often seems like there is no longer such a thing as a simple accident. If a child is hurt playing outside, then someone is to blame ? and someone can be sued. Consequently, fewer sites allow active outdoor play.
5. And then there’s everyone’s favorite villain: plugged-in play. Cable television, digital music devices, home computers, and video.
Statistics You Need to Know
- "Unstructured” outdoor play that is, make-it-up-as-you-go free play amounts to only about 30 minutes per week for children. Yet American two-year-olds average 2.6 hours of television viewing per day!
- Kids’ free time dropped by 38% between 1979 and 1999
-American kids now spend 27% of their time with electronic media: video games, television, computers, and recorded music.