A driving force behind this Pathway to Stewardship & Kinship is a deep concern for the welfare of our youth and children, and the many challenges they face. It also grows from concerns for environmental vitality, since human and environmental health are tightly interwoven.
We are seeing flags of concern from many sectors. Psychologists note an epidemic of declining mental health including anxiety disorders in children, increasing suicide and substance abuse in youth, and feelings of alienation and depression in adults.
Teachers notice a spike in children with special needs, such as attention deficits and anti-social behaviours. Health care providers are concerned about children’s fitness and health status, resulting from too little physical activity and too much screen time.
The Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough’s 2016 Vital Signs shows that only 7% of local children, and 4% of youth are getting recommended levels of physical activity. Local residents rate their mental health lower than provincial averages.
And still, many parents strive to keep their kids safe by keeping them indoors, and driving them from activity to activity. Could the lack of outdoor and creative play time be contributing to children’s health challenges? Researchers think so.
Benefits of Outdoor Play
Happily, plentiful research in children’s well-being points to a common theme – that spending childhood time in unstructured nature play has many benefits, including:
- Reducing stress
- Improving physical and mental health
- Stimulating creativity
- Enhancing concentration and conflict resolution skills
- Building self-esteem
- Encouraging co-operation, collaboration and self-regulation
- Developing problem-solving abilities, and
- Sparking a life-long interest in learning.
Spending time in nature benefits everyone. The Pathway provides simple ideas that lay a foundation for well-being and positive relationships with nature and each other. It also provides opportunities for children to become actively involved in their community as they grow – to meet supportive mentors and participate in projects to learn about, care for, and sustain a flourishing and diverse natural environment.