Have you ever asked your grandparents or parents about what they did for fun as a child?
If you did, you likely heard stories about climbing trees, building forts, chasing fireflies, fishing, riding bikes, playing outdoors with neighborhood friends, or going to a nearby park for a pickup game or sport.
Ask today’s elementary school students what they do for fun, and the answer is quite different.
The current generation of young people are playing video games, sending texts, and making posts on social media. Some are passionate about a sport, to which they may dedicate numerous hours each week. Most of these activities are done indoors.
Today, many kids stay inside because of the weather or from fear of a mosquito, spider, snake, or . . . (insert the name of your most dreaded creature).
The outdoor and nature-based activities of prior generations provided adventure, fun, and entertainment for youth.
Like the dinosaurs, are the outdoor activities of our parents and grandparents becoming extinct?
The Nature Conservancy wants to keep those connections to nature and the outdoor world very much alive. We want every child in Indiana—and the world—to enjoy the many benefits that nature gives us.
Scientists are studying nature’s effects on people and measuring some of the amazing things that we may have experienced or know intuitively. Being in nature helps adults reduce hypertension and depression. Kids who live on a farm and are exposed to soil and domestic animals are less likely to have asthma than urban children. The risk of nearsightedness is reduced when children play outside more. Playing in gardens or natural areas contributes positively to learning and development, aiding cooperation skills and reducing conflict among children.
Connecting to nature helps improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities. The Nature Conservancy knows that if we care for nature, nature will care for us.
We want to encourage childhood time exploring nature and avoid the possibility that time in nature could become an “extinct” childhood experience.
Will you join us in this endeavor?
Questions? Contact us at ChildrenofIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org
Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter