When it comes to your kids and nature, what worries you? If you’re like 65% of American parents, it’s the fact that kids aren’t getting enough time outside.
In the first global survey of its kind, the Nature Conservancy, with support from Disney, recently surveyed parents of kids between 3 – 18 about kids and nature.
This survey found U.S. parents worry about getting their kids outside as much as they do about bullying, the quality of education and obesity. That is a big deal to me – nature is as important as these issues! What’s more, 82% of U.S. parents view spending time in nature as “very important” to their children’s development. The message is clear; to parents, nature is not just “something to do,” it is a crucial part of growth.
Are parents right to worry about this? Yes. Kids need nature. Studies repeatedly show that time spent outside in nature leads to better health and improvement in the classroom. Kids today, however, are spending more time indoors than ever before.
So what’s keeping our kids inside? Parents cite competing demands on their kids’ time, such as homework, time spent on electronic devices, or other after-school activities. Similar to study findings, my daughter Kareena is often busy with homework, singing, swimming, basketball and other activities.
With all that going on and all our daily responsibilities, it can be tough to make getting into nature a priority. But, connecting with nature is a critical part of Kareena’s development, so my husband and I work to fit it in where we can. Kareena spends about eight hours a week outside walking the dog, at recess, playing in nature and playing sports.
Working in the conservation field, I also think about the future of us. If kids don’t connect with nature now, who will care for the environment and support conservation and for us in the future? Direct experience with nature is the most highly cited influence on conservation values and inspiring environmental stewardship.
So what can we do?
First, let’s recognize that we are the primary gatekeepers to nature. According to the survey, children are much more likely to be outside with a parent or guardian than a friend, teacher or extended family member. Nature is not just good for children – it’s good for everyone.
Second, get connected. Seventy-five percent of parents use online resources to learn about nature and the outdoors. Nature Rocks gives parents ideas on where to go and what to do with kids of all ages and in all types of weather.
Finally, pledge to get outside! Walk to school. Hike at a nature preserve, or plan a weekend of camping as a family. Make sure your kids see how much fun you’re having.
Do you have any tips or tricks to share to work in more outdoor time?
Guest blogger Sarita Bhargava works in marketing at The Nature Conservancy. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and daughter.
A version of this post was originally published on the Nature Rocks blog on April 2, 2014.
Bonus. Here's a fun infographic from The Nature Conservancy about their study: