The importance of connecting children to nature

Jill Sturdy

Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager

Last month, the Ottawa Citizen ran a series of articles which reinforced the importance of unstructured outdoor play for kids’ physical and mental health. Author Wayne Scanlan’s March 23rd article, Kids are now heavier, rounder and weaker – the fix ought to be simple featured Dr. Mark Tremblay’s research, the director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) based at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). His research concluded that millennial kids are taller, heavier, rounder and weaker than kids from the 1980s. As well, Vancouver Sun just ran the article Kids need access to nature for mental health (Jill Sturdy just attended the Child and Nature International Conference last week to learn more about strategies to connect young Canadians to nature and the outdoors).

Why? Our society has become less active. We lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

In the 2016 Participation report card on youth fitness, kids received an ‘F’ on fitness.

Kids feeding Chickadees at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary - Oct 14 2015

Photo by A. MacDonald

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality, according to the World Health Organization, and contributes to an estimated 3.2 million deaths worldwide each year.

With more than 80 percent of Canadians living in urban centres, we are unfortunately becoming less connected to nature. This is having a huge impact on humans, particularly children. And yet, the majority of Canadians live close to a public park and have access to nearby nature.

The benefit of connecting children of all ages to nature is conclusive—their social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with nature.

The solution is simple, take your kids outside and (re)discover nature in your neighbourhood. From watching a bee pollinate a flower, to watching birds at your feeder, you will find nearby nature all around.

Nature Canada’s NatureHood program does just that – connects people of all ages to nature right where they live through celebratory events, educational and stewardship activities, and through wildlife observation, all set in urban green spaces.

Our local NatureHood partners are gearing up for events in your region this spring so be sure to check it out, explore and learn more about nature and wildlife. I guarantee it will nurture your body and soul.

 Learn more about Nature Canada’s NatureHood program here!

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