Dr Kathleen Berchelmann, a paediatric specialist at Barnes-Jewish, Missouri Baptist and Progress West hospitals, sees the most extreme cases of depressed and anxious kids. And when she inquires about healthy activities in their lives, almost none mention anything outdoors."It’s frightening," said Dr Berchelmann. By contrast, she said she notices her most carefree patients have opposite lives. “They are covered in ticks after being out catching frogs, got a hook stuck in their ear while fishing in a creek or have an infected mosquito bite after a camping trip.”
According to a recent article in Sydney Morning Herald, Children’s time in nature is diminishing rapidly. Today, kids spend just four to seven minutes outside each day in "unstructured outdoor play" such as climbing trees, but they spend more than seven hours each day "in front of a screen".
The question of how this affects a child’s development has become increasingly urgent. The comprehensive report Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body and Spirit through Outdoor Play released by the National Wildlife Federation shows that playing outside promotes “not just physical wellness but also mental”. It compiles studies showing how outdoor play leads to happier kids – children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, and it teaches kids to collaborate and solve problems. “They are more confident, creative and even nicer.”
To get kids playing outside and away from a screen, the Whole Child report offers the following tips to parents: