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Put down your phone and enjoy the world around you

I never dreamed there would come a day when children had to be told to put down the electronics and go outside to play. Play. You know, play!

What all young creatures do to explore and learn about their world.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that American children spend a whopping 54 hours a week in front of electronic media. Adults fare no better.

It is estimated that the average adult checks their email through some sort of device at least every half hour and uses some other electronic device even more frequently.

School children visiting CCEEC get homework at the end of their field trip and we promise them that we are going to check with their teachers to be sure they do this homework.

I truly was shocked how many students told us their parents don’t let them play outside or worse yet, their parents don’t spend time outside, either.

As a parent I was always outside with my son. I grew up spending every possible moment outside and I wanted to share the outdoors to him as well.

Every day was an adventure and we would play outside in the yard or sometimes we would pack snacks and leave the house in the morning to go play and explore. We need nature. Studies have proven it.

Here are some of the reasons backed up by research:

A study published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that kids who spend time playing outside are less likely to develop nearsightedness. The team of researchers found that a child’s chances of developing nearsightedness dropped by two percent for each additional hour spent outdoors, per week.

Outdoor play has many brain-boosting benefits for children starting when they are infants. Outside play fosters “social, emotional, and intellectual growth.”

Playing outside strengthens language and communication, problem-solving and teamwork. Children make up their own ground rules, enforce them and adapt when those rules don’t work when allowed to engage in unstructured play. These are skills they will carry with them throughout their lives.

An estimated 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Playing outside reduces ADHD symptoms in children. Overall, it’s becoming increasingly more apparent exposure to the outdoors also reduces the need for medication!

In 2018, researchers studied children’s stress levels after exposure to “green outdoor spaces.”

The study found that kids who play outside found peace away from stresses in the classroom and daily life. This can apply to adults as well when faced with many stress factors throughout the day.

When I am stressed, I will give myself a time out, literally. I will make myself go outside. I will find the nearest tree and sit under it. This relaxes me and I start to feel better immediately. I read once that it is nearly impossible to be in a bad mood when walking in the woods. I agree.

It’s relaxing and it is healing. I find that I am more productive when I return to work.

When I went to the doctor last year, she said my vitamin D levels were low. I was stunned. I work in nature. I am outside a lot. She said it is one of those things that people living in this area have to deal with. She suggested taking a Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D in a tablet?

Of course, I promised to take the vitamin D supplements and avoided telling her that I would find my supplement in the form of the sun! So, I try every day to spend some time soaking up the sun.

The truth is the more high-tech our lives become the more we need nature. Isn’t it time to disconnect from all those screens and connect with nature?

Gauge and Bryar Kardisco didn’t let the rain stop them from going outside and jumping in puddles. MEGHAN KARDISCO/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO