Over two decades ago, a Harvard University biologist suggested that all humans were biophiliacs. In essence it means that we are instinctively attracted to nature. However, many of today’s parents, would seriously question this idea, as they watch their children express a clear preference for sitting on a couch glued to a screen over playing outside.
The panic about children spending too much time indoors has become so extreme that the ‘crisis’ has been given a name, Nature deficit disorder. While calling it a disorder might be a little radical, its clear children these days spend significantly more time indoors than outdoors. In part we can blame the advance in technology, the pace of modern life and the time constraints of school and sport. Parental fears about diseases and their concerns about the dangers of playing outside are another factor. And finally, as suburbs and office ‘parks’ continue to expand, nature is sectioned off more and access to it seems to be vanishing.
Why go outside?
A number of studies have highlighted the benefit—even necessity—of spending time outdoors, both for children and adults. At the Character Company we feel that being outdoors, unplugged and taking in the magnificent beauty of the B’sorah Camp site is perfect remedy for Nature Deficit Disorder. Building strong, bold and confident boys means giving them “green medicine”, and here’s why it works:
It builds confidence. The way that boys play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the weekly park play sessions to TCC weekend camp outs.
It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows boys to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and learn how to approach the world in inventive ways.
It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a boy to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant, or pull a flower out by its roots.
It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. We believe that as boys spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow and this reduces the richness of human experience.
It gets boys moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involves more effort than sitting on the couch. Our programme is activity-based and we provide our boys with a number of opportunities to get their blood pumping – we are often hiking, bike riding, abseiling, mountain climbing and swimming! Not only is exercise good for boys’ bodies, it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for boys who are struggling at school.
It makes them think. Nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The experience of camping in the countryside presents boys with opportunities to ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
It reduces stress and fatigue. It is believed that urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascinationthat creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.
So while screen time is the easier, more popular choice, it’s important to set aside time for outdoor play. Visit our facebook page and see just what we have been up to.