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Playing In The Dirt - essential for child growth

Last Updated on Monday, 12 March 2012 14:20

last-child-cover.jpgNature Deficit Disorder and its emotional and behavioural affects on children is becoming a hot topic  world wide as more of the earth's citizens live in cities and towns. Planet Ark reports recently of the research and writings of American author and nature leader Richard Louv. We know that sitting around, as well as putting on weight, impairs kids in the long run. But now studies say that kids in touch with their natural world are healthier, perform better in school and have better self-images. They learn initiative and judgement. They use creative kinds of play.

The latest edition of Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods has updated research confirming that direct exposure to nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

Richard Louv's website includes links to other books, and numerous articles discussing this essential connection to nature. I recommend A Walk in the Woods Right or privilege? by Richard Louv published online in the March/April2009 issue of Orion magazine.




So, what are some of the things that you can do to encourage the kids to get involved in the outdoors? Planet Ark suggests these

  • Invite native flora and fauna into your life. Maintain a birdbath. Replace part of your lawn with native plants. Build a bat house.
  • View nature as an antidote to stress. This benefit flows to kids as well as the adult that goes with them into nature. Children and parents feel better after spending time in the natural world - even if it's just their own backyard.
  • Plant a garden. Plant a tree on Planet Ark's National Tree Day. Get involved in your local bushcare or coastcare group.
  • Encourage your kids to go camping in the backyard. Buy them a tent or help them make a canvas tepee, and leave it up all summer.
  • Be a cloudspotter; build a backyard weather station. No special shoes or drive to the soccer field is required for "clouding." A young person just needs a view of the sky (even if it's from a bedroom window) and a guidebook.
  • Invent your own nature game. One mother's suggestion: "We help our kids pay attention during longer hikes by playing 'find ten critters' - mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, snails, other creatures. Finding a critter can also mean discovering footprints, mole holes, and other signs that an animal has passed by or lives there."


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