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Toys, Products, and Ideas
for Sensory Education
Children In Nature
Good news! No Child Left Inside Act Wins In Congress, Sep. 18, 2008 (New State Grant Program Would
Help Children Connect to Nature)

The National Wildlife Federation. and their new project, Green Hour  for ideas, suggestions, and an
online community dedicated to bringing kids back to nature.  From the NWF's
Be Out There program:

"Studies show outdoor time helps children grow lean and strong, enhances imaginations and attention
spans, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance. In addition, children who spend time in
nature regularly are shown to become better stewards of the environment.

Fast Facts About Outdoor Time and Children

  •    Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. (Juster et al 2004); (Burdette &
    Whitaker 2005); (Kuo & Sullivan 2001)

  •    Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a
    typical day (more than 53 hours a week). (Kaiser Family Foundation)

  •    In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. (Children & Nature Network, 2008)

  •    Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show
    better concentration. (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005; Ginsburg et al., 2007)

  •    Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American
    Academy of Pediatrics, 2008)

  •    The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before
    the age of 11. (Wells and Lekies, 2006)

A growing body of literature shows that the natural environment has profound effects on the well-being of
adults, including better psychological well-being, superior cognitive functioning, fewer physical ailments
and speedier recovery from illness.  It is widely accepted that the environment is likely to have a more
profound effect on children due to their greater plasticity or vulnerability. Research provides convincing
evidence of the significant benefits of experiences in nature to children. Findings include:

  • Children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are better able to concentrate after
    contact with nature.
  • Children with views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. The
    greener, the better the scores.
  • Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination,
    balance and agility, and they are sick less often.
  • When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with imaginative and creative play that
    fosters language and collaborative skills.
  • Exposure to natural environments improves children's cognitive development by improving their awareness,
    reasoning and observational skills.
  • Nature buffers the impact of life stress on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount
    of nature exposure, the greater the benefits.
  • Play in a diverse natural environment reduces or eliminates bullying.
  • Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills a sense of peace and being at
    one with the world.
  • Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the
    sense of wonder. Wonder is an important motivator for life long learning.
  • Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other
  • Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children
  • Outdoor environments are important to children's development of independence and autonomy.
(References can be found at White Hutchinson where this was quoted from)

For a great resource on how to get your kids back in nature, download "
Connecting Today's Kids with
Nature" (pdf).

Natural outdoor environments have three qualities that are unique and appealing to children as play
environments - their unending diversity; the fact that they are not created by adults; and their feeling of
timelessness - the landscapes, trees, rivers described in fairy tales and myths still exist today.  Natural
elements provide for open-ended play that emphasize unstructured creative exploration with diverse
materials.  Plants, together with soil, sand, and water, provide settings that can be manipulated. You can
build a trench in the sand and dirt or a rock dam over a stream, but there's not much you can do to a
jungle gym except climb, hang, or fall off.  Read how children will form a necessary bond with nature in
this article,  
Building a Foundation for Compassionate Intelligence (a must read!)

The vision and mission of the
Children & Nature Network is to give every child in every community a wide
range of opportunities to experience nature directly, reconnecting our children with nature’s joys and
lessons, its profound physical and mental bounty.  Children are smarter, cooperative, happier and healthier
when they have frequent and varied opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.  
Green plants and play yards reduce children’s stress.  Free play in natural areas enhances children’s
creativity.  Students score higher on standardized tests when natural environments are integral to schools’
curricula.  Effects of Attention Deficit Disorder are reduced when children with this disorder have regular
access to the out of doors.

Dr. Jane Goodall believes it is essential that parents and other mentors of children guide them to make
meaningful connections with the natural world.  See her video,
Children and Nature: Awakening a Sense
of Wonder.

In an article from CBN News, July 28, 2007, "No Child Left Inside", The National Sporting Goods
Association reports that since 1995 the number of children hiking, swimming, and fishing has declined by
more than 20 percent. Even bike riding has dropped 31 percent over the past five years.

What's frightening is the number of children who actually gain weight over the summer months.
Nationwide, childhood obesity rates have nearly quintupled among 6- to 11-year-olds and tripled among
teens and preschool aged kids 2 to 5 since the 1970s. Kempthorne said, "We're seeing Type 2 diabetes,
adult onset diabetes, that's occurring now routinely in 6-year-old children." "Whatever we're doing now is
not enough. The greatest increase in child obesity in our history occurred during the same two decades as
the greatest increase in organized sports for children in our history. Soccer's great, but it's not doing the
trick," Louv (author of the new book "
Last Child in the Woods") said.  

Not only have children's play environments dramatically changed in the last few decades, but also the time
they have to play has decreased. Between 1981 and 1997, the amount of time children ages 6 to 8 in the
U.S. played decreased 25%, by almost four hours per week, from 15 hours a week to 11 hours and 10
minutes. During the same period, the time they spent in school increased by almost 5 hours.

A new ad campaign by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just may be the trick. Together
with DreamWorks Animation, they're urging kids to "Get out and play an hour a day." It's a start. In fact,
there's a nationwide movement underway to "leave no child inside." From hearings on Capitol Hill to
legislative programs like the Texas "Life is Better Outside" program, some kids are getting back to nature.  

Interaction with Nature during the Middle Years: Its Importance in Children's Development

Children's Outdoor Play & Learning Environments: Returning to Nature

Locally, Hooked on Nature, in San Jose, California, promotes children connecting with nature, and has
started their own "Leave No Child Inside" campaign.  Read the article, "
Building a Foundation..." which
explains how children from birth-14 bond with the earth and learn lessons that will forever be a part of
them.  See our
Attachment Parenting page and learn about bonding with your children.

Find out how we affect how our children feel about nature in the cover story from the August 2007 edition
of Santa Cruz's Growing Up Magazine,  
Preserving the Connection Between Children and the Natural World.

Awesome Activities from "Children of the Earth"

Standing Tree Nature School in Santa Cruz has classes at Wilder Ranch State Park that help kids to explore
themselves and the great outdoors!

Bringing outdoors to kids with special needs,
Shared Adventures in Santa Cruz offers many activities!

See our
Links/Local Resources page for lot's of great outdoor places to enjoy with your children.
Green Hour - Discover the Wonder of Nature