In the 1950s television programs “Lassie” and “The Andy Griffith Show” young characters Timmy (Jon Provost) and Opie (Ron Howard) were always running around outside, saving people from harm or going fishing or engaging some other type of hearty activity.
Whether they were having fun or encountering danger (Timmy's in the well!), they were outside — a lot.
Today, in order for city and suburban kids to spend time outside it seems like everything has to be planned in advance and closely supervised. As a result, hours and hours are spent indoors, with eyes fixed on screens for school, play, and socializing.
That puts a strain on kids.
According to a recent study from the University of Hong Kong, 16 percent of preschoolers in Hong Kong, and up to 22 percent in China, show signs of mental health problems.
The numbers are almost identical in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 American children ages 3 to 17 — that’s about 15 million kids — have a diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder in any given year.
What can be done?
Members of the World Health Organization met in Parma, Italy, in 2010 and came up with the Parma Declaration to help improve children's physical and mental health. One solution: Decrease the current epidemic of nature-deficit and child-nature-disconnectedness.
Research has clearly shown that being connected to nature — or not — affects a child's psychological functioning and well-being.
So spend time in a park, green space, or recreation area with your child every day. You'll see improvements in mood, attention, sleep quality, and schoolwork.
Chances are you'll have fun too.