Editor's Note: With this post we welcome Riley Smith to the writing team. Riley is based in North Carolina and will be focusing on issues related to energy, education, deforestation, transport, and sustainability. Welcome Riley!
As I was home for the holidays, one of the more significant green agenda items began to take shape for me. You may think you know where I’m going with this – material consumption, energy use, the economic disparity between 1st and 3rd world countries, deforestation. However, watching my two nieces, took me down a different stream of thought.
On the floor rest two i-pod’s, one Wii, 2 Wii controllers, two pillows, 3-5 pairs of “cute” outfits, one karaoke toy machine, two elementary books, one dance mat, one Monopoly board game, and a vast array of peculiar toys that were hard to unwrap from their unyielding plastic. To me and most, that seemed like a fair, wholesome Christmas for two little girls. Yet where were the outdoor toys? The jump ropes, sports attire/equipment, roller skates, skateboards, bicycles, and tennis shoes were all missing.
Today’s children are not making it outdoors. Electrical outlets are more important that tree houses. AA batteries are more significant than building a snowman. North Carolina State professor Robin Moore states that nature is being replaced “by the secondary, vicarious, often distorted, dual sensory (vision and sound only), one-way experience of television and other electronic media." He continues:
Children live through their senses. Sensory experiences link the child’s exterior world with their interior, hidden, affective world. Since the natural environment is the principal source of sensory stimulation, freedom to explore and play with the outdoor environment through the senses in their own space an time is essential for healthy development of an interior life. . . . This type of self-activated, autonomous interaction is what we call free play. Individual children test themselves by interacting with their environment, activating their potential and reconstructing human culture. The content of the environment is a critical factor in this process. A rich, open environment will continuously present alternative choices for creative engagement. A rigid, bland environment will limit healthy growth and development of the individual or the group. -- The need for Nature: A Childhood Right, Social Justice 24, no. 3 (fall 1997)The result is a future generation that will not value Nature and the pressing issues that will surface during this century. Additionally, the associated health implications of an “indoors child” include ADHD and obesity. Finally, as Moore eloquently puts, our children will be less in tune with their senses and stagnate their physical and emotional development.
With climate change and other environmental issues coming to the forefront of dialogue and political action, it is important that we have the leaders collaborating with an interdisciplinary mindset. With the transition of our children from the outdoor life to the indoor life, environmental support may die out. It is vital that, as parents, that we resist the enticing indoor environment and allow Nature to serve as an educator to our children’s minds and senses.