Children’s Nature Deficit

Children and Nature Network report “Children’s Nature Deficit: What We Know – and Don’t Know”, the authors report a number of observations regarding children’s health, knowledge of nature, and relative exposure to the outdoors. The main findings are given below.

Click to download the report: CNNEvidence of Nature Deficit

See Also:

The Main Points from the CN&N Report (These are simply reprinted from the report.)

1. Direct experience in nature is critical and diminishing.

2. Children spend less time playing outdoors than their mothers did when they were young – even in rural areas.

3. Children’s participation in outdoor activities declined in 2007.

4. One set of studies suggests a recent US increase in the time that children spend outdoors, biking, jogging, walking, skate boarding, etc.

5. Children’s discretionary time at home is diminishing.

6. Children spend increased time with [electronic] media and multiple forms of media.

7. International studies suggest low rates of children’s nature experiences across many countries.

8. UK survey indicates changing relationships with nature.

9. Children in The Netherlands report low contact with nature.

10. Between 1988 and 2003, per capita visits to US national parks declined.

11. Researchers link decline in park visits to overall decline in nature-based recreation.

12. Drop in visitations to national forests.

13. Preschoolers more sedentary than thought, even when outdoors.

14. One US researcher suggests that a generation of children is not only being raised indoors, but is being confined to even smaller places.

15. Children’s access to public play space has declined.

16. Children’s use of space has changed from being primarily outdoors [and independent] to indoors and supervised.

17. In two decades children’s independent mobility has dramatically declined.

18. Today’s young children appear to have a more restricted range in which they can play freely, have fewer playmates, and in many cases their friends are less diverse.

19. Parental constraints have always been present, but in this generation they seem to exert much greater control on children’s play.

20. Private and public land is increasingly restrictive regarding children’s free play.

21. Is recess disappearing? If so, this may be especially true for African American and lower-income students.

22. Many children experience limits on their adventure play, including in natural areas.

23. Children’s independent mobility influences their outdoor activity.

24. Very few children walk to school and distance is the primary barrier.

25. Walking and bicycling to school dropped nearly 25% over 30 years.

26. Sociodemographic and physical environment factors influence children’s active travel between home and school.

27. While the causes of obesity are complex, the growth of child obesity may provide indirect evidence of lack of active play outdoors.

28. There is an increase in the number of overweight children int he United States.

29. As children move into their teen, they are less physically active.

30. Reduced teen physical fitness reported in Texas.

31. Canadian children receive an ‘F’ in physical activity.

32. Study links green spaces to children’s health.

33. Many young children do not meet health recommendations in terms of their physical activity and screen time behavior.

34. Many preschoolers do not achieve recommended physical activity levels.

35. Physical activity declines between the ages of 3 and 4-5 years.

36. Many US children are deficient in vitamin D, primarily produced by exposure to sunlight.

37. Indoor lifestyle and rise of myopia.

38. Children know more about Pokemon than common wildlife.

39. Children have lost touch with the natural world and are unable to identify common animals and plants, according to a recent study by BBC Wildlife Magazine.

40. A 2009 UK survey found that children have difficulty identifying plants and animals, and that parents worry that their children spend too much time indoors.

41. UK teen-age, advanced level biology students know very few common plants.

42. US and Japanese researchers link children playing in urban areas may experience lower levels of biological diversity.

43. In Israel, children are less likely than adults to identify natural outdoor areas as significant to them.

44. Children and adults in Switzerland know little about biodiversity.

45. Adolescents’s environmental concerns have generally declined since the early 1990s.

For more information, read the pdf or go to

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