Feeling cooped up? Getting children outdoors during coronavirus closures boosts mental health, learning, family connections
Since author Richard Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, families have recognized the need to get children outdoors, but screens and scheduled activities often compete for children’s time. Now, with COVID-19 causing cancellations nationwide, many look to the outdoors for a break.
Parents/guardians report the uncertainty and loneliness of quarantine has left many children feeling anxious. A recent study by the Royal Holloway University of London revealed children’s moods improved after a single session of time outdoors, and after a year of weekly learning sessions in nature, their well-being significantly improved.
Learning takes a leap forward with time spent in nature, too, according to Jenny Phillips, curriculum developer and owner of The Good and the Beautiful, a homeschool curriculum company based in Utah — a notion backed by research. With mandated school closures in all 50 states, some are concerned about children falling behind in learning.
“Young children develop their bodies and minds while they’re jumping in mud and soaking in the sun,” Phillips said. “They learn cause and effect when they drop a twig in the stream and watch it float. It’s more engaging to learn biology when you witness it at work in your backyard. It’s more satisfying to study literature when they’ve experienced what great authors describe about nature.”
“Parents can get outside and learn and explore right along with their kids,” Phillips said. “We encourage children to notice, to observe, and to appreciate the natural world around them.”
To help make it simple for parents/guardians to engage children in the outdoors, Phillips’ company has decided to offer for free The Good and the Beautiful Nature Notebook as a printable PDF download during this time of uncertainty through May 31, 2020, at www.goodandbeautiful.com/nature. Subscribe to the company mailing list to receive the free PDF download. Those who have used the Nature Notebook say it is an easy and fun way to engage their children in nature through scavenger hunts, games, poetry, sketching, journaling, collecting and more while gently including language arts, art, handwriting, science and motor development.
With many suddenly finding themselves teaching at home — however temporarily — The Good and the Beautiful has seen families across the nation seeking help. “Since March 9, we’ve had a 769% increase in online sales,” Phillips said. While some of the increase is attributed to a one-week sale the company held as they prepare to move to a larger warehouse, families are still shopping The Good and the Beautiful in record numbers, likely due to COVID-19 school closures.
Phillips, the mother of five children who started The Good and the Beautiful in her basement five years ago and now has 100 employees and a 29,000-square-foot warehouse, understands families feeling restless with the COVID-19 global pandemic: “A little fresh air will be good for everyone right now.”
Source: The Good and the Beautiful