We all have those memories from childhood: jumping into a cool lake on a hot summer day, intently watching ants on the march or spending hours just laying back and looking at clouds. And whether we realized it or not, those moments in the outdoors helped shaped our views on the world around us. But those kinds of memories are fading fast for many young people today. The statistics are alarming: in a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own and kids 8 to 18 spend an overwhelming 53 hours a week using entertainment media.
Within the space of what feels like very little time, the way children understand and experience nature has radically changed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment, but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. It is becoming exactly the opposite of what most of us experienced growing up. There is an increasing divide between the young and the natural world. And of course, there are environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual implications because of that divide.
Why Fresh Air Friday? Studies show outdoor time helps children grow lean and strong, enhances imaginations and attention spans, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance. Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues. It also improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness. Outside play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression. Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships. Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. In addition, children who spend time in nature regularly are shown to become better stewards of the environment. Need I say more?
Our first Fresh Air Friday will be this week, come rain, shine or snow. We will be walking down to the river to explore so dress your child for the weather and expect some dirt.... lots of dirt.