11 July 2008

Children and Nature

"I Remember"

I remember looking forward to high snow so I won't have to go to school. I remember cold summer mornings and beautiful sunrises.  I remember watching lightning show during spring and summer nights. I remember watching big people picking up snow and throw them as if they were football. I remember seeing snow taller than my father and it sure looked like north pole. 
I remember going to beach in New York, and waves were always lively. I enjoyed watching my uncles diving through the waves and come out of the water with smile. I remember seeing humpback whales dancing in open ocean when I was on a small boat with other Deaf children in Massachusetts. I remember building boys' club in the woods behind a project housing. I remember recesses at elementary and middle schools where we kids would get to play football, basketball, soccer, tag, races, riding on swings,hide-n-seek and many other games we could invent. I remember riding on rolling skates in winter, slipping on ice, and landing on sharp icicle with my left hand (still have this scar). I remember looking forward to summer so I could ride my bike everyday and developing tricks like riding bike on one wheel up the huge hill, and boy, it sure was a challenge, and in the end of the day, I made it.

KJ Balogun

Still, I wonder if those experience do have impact on my health, on spirit, emotion, and psyche levels. Apparently, we haven't seen evidences in scientific approach until now. Generally, people are starting to look in that direction to see if there's any influences from nature toward our children, let's find out:

I found this website after submitting my previous article on National Legislative Forum on Parks and Recreation, The National Environment Education Foundation website. This caught my eye:

For the full article from National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), click here:  Children and Nature Initiative

“Evidence suggests that children and adults benefit so much from contact with nature that land conservation can now be viewed as a public health strategy.” [1]
- Howard Frumkin, MD, Dr.PH, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health/ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDC
- Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods

Our children may be the first generation ever at risk of having a shorter lifespan than their parents [2]. Sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity have contributed greatly to the numerous health problems plaguing today’s children. Chronic conditions such as childhood obesity, asthma, and attention-deficit disorder have all increased over the past few decades [3]. These chronic conditions may lead to pulmonary, cardiovascular, and mental health problems in adulthood. Outdoor activity in the natural environment has taken a back seat to television, video games, the computer, and a demanding schoolwork schedule. Today’s youth are losing the contact with the natural environment that is extremely beneficial for their health and well-being.

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages children to have unstructured, free play not only for their physical development, but also for their emotional, social, and cognitive development as well [4]. Key scientific evidence has shown that being outdoors:

  1. increases a child’s physical activity [5];
  2. reduces stress[6];
  3. aids in childhood development [4];
  4. is a coping tool for children with attention disorders such as attention-deficit disorder [7];
  5. and contains restorative and therapeutic properties [8].
The National Environmental Education Foundation joins the movement to reconnect children with nature. We encourage parents and caregivers to get your children out into the natural environment. Together we can teach them how to protect the environment and their health.

[1] Frumkin H & Louv R (2007). Land Trust Alliance Special Anniversary Report.
[2] Ludwig, DS (2007). New England Journal of Medicine, 357(23): 2325-27.
[3] Perrin JM, Bloom SR & Gortmaker SL (2007). JAMA, 297(24): 2755-59.
[4] American Academy of Pediatricians- Clinical Report. Ginsburg KR, et al (2007). Pediatrics, 119(1): 182-191.
[5] American Academy of Pediatricians – Position Statement. Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, and Council on School Health (2006). Pediatrics, 117(5): 1834-42.
[6] Wells NM & Evans GW (2003). Environment and Behavior, 35(3): 311-330.
[7] Kuo FE & Taylor AF (2004). American Journal of Public Health, 94(9): 1580-86.
[8] Ulrich RS (1984). Science, 224(4647): 420–421.

KJ Balogun, thanks for sharing!

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