Friday, March 27, 2009

Children and Nature

April is Children and Nature Month, sponsored by the Children and Nature Network and we hope that everyone will join us in celebrating.

At camp, we have long known that magical things happen when children and nature get together. Now there is a growing body of research that supports the importance of a strong connection with the natural world for all of us, and especially for young people. Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, includes research from many sources and this documentation all points in the same direction. "As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature."

What does contact with nature provide? According to Louv and the research he cites, nature calms children, focuses them, and yet excites their senses. It incites peace and curiosity at the same time. It provides physical and emotional exercise that "is more varied and less time-bound than organized sports." It reduces stress and bolsters children's resilience. Louv further points out, "Children are simply happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for experiences in the out-of-doors."

While camp is an excellent place for children to experience a personal connection with the natural world, it is certainly not the only place. Children can experience nature in alleys, backyards, and school grounds. They can find adventure and discovery while playing with peers in a vacant lot or park. Or they can gain a lifelong appreciation for the natural world by spending time with an adult who knows how to point out the animal sign and notice the color of a leaf, and then support the child in making his own discoveries. As Rachel Carson said, "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder...he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."

How will you share Children and Nature Month with the young people in your life?


  1. This is why there is a week that is focused on children and nature.

    • 30 percent of teenagers did not participate in any outdoor nature activity at all this past summer. Another 17 percent engaged only once in an out of door activity like camping, hiking, or backpacking.

    • Between 1995-2005, overnight stays in national parks declined by 20% and camping, backpacking stays dropped 24%

    • Missing out on a huge enrichment of their lives: attention spans, physical health and mental health, to stress levels, creativity, cognitive skills, low-self esteem, obesity.

    • Experts predict modern kids will be the first since the second World War to have poorer health than parents-and they say a lack of outside play is surely part of it.

    • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder were much improved by time in nature.

    • Being outside will cement the love, respect and need for the landscape.

    • The stress of the computers is replacing breaking an arm as a childhood rite of passage.

    • REI CEO says, “ the company’s major competition doesn’t come from other outdoor stores, it’s with the video screen.”

    • The average child spends 35 hours a week watching T.V. or computer

  2. These are amazing facts. Discouraging facts! It is hard to imagine that an average child spends almost the equivalent of a 40 hour work week on a computer or TV. I think every child should spend at least one summer at Sanborn and discover the Magic of the Mountains. I know that as an adult (and parent) I feel more energized, happier, less stressed, and at one with the Earth when I simply visit Sanborn. Sanborn is an amazing place - a gift for all those who attend. Could you start a 2-week program for Moms?

  3. I think it is important to note that spending time outdoors does not have to be a big production or stressful for parents. There are many activities that can happen right in the backyard. Children have great imaginations and can have fun outside without many or any props.

  4. Children in Nature... The research and facts are overwhelmingly positive, if not necessary, for getting children in nature. Now is the time to make an everlasting investment in the lives of children. Nowhere can a place be found that supports this concept more than Sanborn Western Camps!

  5. Sanborn filled a void I could not give my children when they were young. I knew they would love time in the mountains, love time on a trailride, love time camping under the stars,love learning how to cook breakfast on an open campfire, love waking up in tent snuggled deep in a warm sleeping bag. Sanborn gave them all these things plus more I had not expected. It gave them leadership skills, team-building skills, knowledge about nature, an amazing set of new skills, and lifelong friendships. Both my daughters insisted on going back year after year. It was something they looked forward to all year long. Both eventually became counselors. My daughter Ashley loved it so much she now works there full-time! Sanborn played a huge role in making both my children who they are today!

  6. Every night, as my family eats dinner, we talk about our "favorite parts of the day". Our walks together as a family are always a high point. Many times they are walks to get somewhere, but we try to maintain a pace where we can actually "see" things along the way. The benefits are incredible: I relax and slow down--and I can really listen to my son; he focuses his boundless 4 year old energy on hiking through deep snow, playing shadow tag, looking for animal signs, and just MOVING; we connect with each other and with the natural, everyone sleeps better that night.