Our learning and the state of our bodies is intrinsically linked. If we feed our children cookies for breakfast, we can’t expect them to do their best in school, right? You, of course, know this.

But beyond that, childhood is critically important when it comes to how we learn to take care of our physical health. If you’re like me, you probably use your own childhood as a measuring stick in this area. 

When I was in elementary school, my parents had me play basketball on our church team for 2 seasons. I’m pretty sure that if you could examine my DNA right now, you would see zero genes for excellence in team sports 🙂 I’m tall, so naturally everyone thought I’d be good, and I was horrible! 

I didn’t learn until I was in college that I’m actually not bad at dancing. I wish I had opportunities as a child to learn about how to move my body and some skills I could carry into adulthood.

The rub here is that, as in every other area, your child is watching you. Are you setting a good example of an adult who attends to their physical health? 

I realize that I’m not in peak physical condition as I say this, but it is something I continue to work on. I can’t tell you how happy it made me – and only a little guilty for misleading her so heavily – that in preschool, my daughter Maggie wrote in her “All About Mommy and Me” book that my favorite food was salad. It is not, but it’s what she saw me eating a lot of! 

Part of this conversation has to focus on how much time our children are spending outside. 

If children are outside, they are generally not sitting around. They run, jump on the trampoline, dig for worms, pretend sticks are weapons/magic wands/musical instruments, ride bikes, draw with sidewalk chalk, and throw balls and Frisbees to anyone whose attention they can secure. They need the activity, the fresh air, the Vitamin D, knowledge of the natural world, and creative play that being outside affords them.

In fact, researchers have found a relationship between:

  • The amount of TV children watch and body fat percentages;
  • A room with a view of nature and the stress level of  children;
  • Time spent in nature and:
    • decreasing ADHD symptoms
    • lower rates of physical illness
    • lower rates of mental illness

In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv coined a new term: Nature Deficit Disorder. 

We know that people have been staying indoors more since we shifted from being totally dependent upon agriculture; but as we’ve come to rely on screens more and more, that shift from outdoors to indoors has gotten considerably faster.

This expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to: 

  • a diminished use of the senses
  • attention difficulties 
  • conditions of obesity 
  • higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses

So what’s a mom to do? Get outside (it’s good for us too!) and let our kids play!