While screen time is the easier, more popular choice, it’s important to set aside time for the outdoors. Finding time to go for a walk in nature is hugely beneficial for children. Researchers have found that time in nature can improve your child’s happiness, learning, sleep and self-esteem. Also, studies are consistently suggesting that kids who play outside are often smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.
Too much time indoors has increased dramatically since the shift in technology, especially for children. It has become so extreme that many kids spend very little time in nature and most of it indoors. Students I teach admit to spending 4 to 5 hours a day in front of a screen on average and no or very little time in nature. It has become a crisis that the younger generation have a disconnect with nature. This crisis has a name: Nature deficit disorder.
The W.H.O. has described the current situation as a series of CRISES and are very concerned with children's inactivity and lack of time in nature. Here is a brief summary of how time in nature helps children:
Confidence - Letting your child choose how they play in nature means that have the power to control their own actions - it has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. It builds confidence and responsibility. This is an opportunity for your child to try new things, to develop new skills, and test themselves in unique ways such as climbing a tree.
Responsibility. Being in nature entrusts a child to take care of the living parts of their environment meaning they’ll learn what happens to nature when it is destroyed, mistreated or not respected. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and their time in nature will reinforce this.
Imagination and Wonder. Kids will naturally design their own games and activities, and approach the world in inventive ways. The questions soon start when kids are in nature, as time in nature makes them think and wonder about the earth and the life it supports. This will encourage them to find out more about the natural world and nurture learning.
Stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than Minecraft or Fortnite but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. It also serves as an auditory sensory activity - identifying sounds and discriminating them will help hone their listening skills.
Exercise. A walk in nature will get the senses working and blood pumping, be great for their bodies and the completion of the walk will give children a sense of achievement. This is especially beneficial for kids who find it hard to focus or have 'ants in their pants'. Exposure to nature has been shown to lower the risk of obesity and decreases blood sugar and cortisol, both of which are also associated with obesity.
Stress relief. A walk in nature will be a distraction to the everyday stress of school life and grades. Natural environments help with fatigue and the constraints of having to sit behind a desk and comply with a rigid schedule. Study results show that nature positively affects people’s mental, spiritual and physical health and promote a feeling of well-being.
As a Dad, a teacher and a hiking guide, I am combining my knowledge and needs to help parents bond with their kids in nature. To get outside and have some fun in some awe-inspiring locations. Most Sundays we will be going to different locations all within a short drive from Lisbon/Cascais area and walking in the best places for children to explore and thrive.
Come along and enjoy a nature fix in the best the Lisbon region has to offer. We look forward to exploring with you.