During your visit children can enjoy hands-on activities and playtime in The National Wildlife Federation certified wildlife habitat. Join us for Summer Story Time on the third Wednesday of each month from 10:00-11:00 AM for children ages 8 through 10. Our Children’s Activity Director has chosen wonderful books and fun activities. The suggested donation is $10 per child.
From The National Wildlife Federation website:
Benefits to Body, Mind, and Spirit
Our kids are out of shape, tuned out, and stressed out because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world. According to the report, Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body, and Spirit Through Outdoor Play, the benefits of getting kids in nature can be seen on many levels.
- Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese get fit.
- Spending time outside raises levels of vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.
- Being outside improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness.
- Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
- Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing, and listening.
- Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.
- Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
- Play protects children’s emotional development, whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.
- Nature makes children nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community, and close relationships.
Dirt Improves Health and Happiness
While many times getting our hands dirty is frowned upon, the National Wildlife Federation’s report—The Dirt on Dirt: How Getting Dirty Outdoors Benefits Kids—has some new facts and figures that may have parents steering their kids toward the nearest mud puddle. Getting a little dirty in the great outdoors—far from being a bad thing—helps children lead happier, healthier lives.
When we let our kids play in dirt, we’re not only allowing them to explore the wonders around them, we are also exposing them to healthy bacteria, parasites, and viruses that will inevitably create a much stronger immune system. Many kids who live in an ultra-clean environment have a greater chance of suffering from allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases that we would otherwise be protected from through the simple pleasure of playing with some nice common dirt.
Studies have shown that simply having contact with dirt, whether it’s through gardening, digging holes, or making pies out of mud, can significantly improve a child’s mood and reduce anxiety and stress. With antidepressant use in kids on the rise, an increasing number of experts are recognizing the role of nature in enhancing kids’ mental health. Dirt can even improve classroom performance.
Outdoor Time Improves Sleep
Many U.S. parents are surprised to learn that their children suffer from persistent sleep deprivation—as much as two hours per day. There are numerous reasons: busy schedules, addiction to television and electronic games, and lack of knowledge about the amount needed. According to the National Wildlife Federation’s report, Green Time for Sleep Time: Three Ways Nature and Outdoor Time Improve Your Child’s Sleep, the reality is American children are spending an average of more than seven hours a day staring at electronic media entertainment. Building some outdoor time into children’s schedules will help them get a better night’s sleep and receive the associated physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits. Here are three ways outdoor time improves a child’s sleep:
- Sleep-inducing natural light: Regular doses of bright natural light help children stay more alert during the day, elevate their moods, and make it easier to sleep at night. Exposure to outdoor light in the morning actually helps set their body clock for a better and earlier night’s sleep.
- The soothing dimensions of more time in nature: Nature has a way of comforting children. It can take away stress and be a haven for kids who are otherwise feeling the pressures of school, family, and social demands. Research has found that children who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) get significant relief from their symptoms and are able to concentrate better if they spend some time outdoors.
- Outdoor exercise is better for children than indoors: Exercise can release soothing endorphins into the blood stream and can help with the production of melatonin. Outdoor play encourages activities such as climbing, jumping, running, and tumbling that promote muscle fitness and flexibility. Research shows that moderate to vigorous physical activity in childcare settings increased from one percent indoors to as much as 11 percent outdoors. When outdoor play was child-led, the amount of time further increased to 17 percent.