Published by CPAWS Ottawa Valley. Read the original blog.
Connecting youth to nature has never been more challenging.
Today’s youth are overscheduled and overstressed, balancing school, extracurriculars, volunteering, and sometimes a part-time job – not to mention making time for friends and family.
The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates 1 in 7 youth experience a mental health issue, with anxiety being the most common. Having their schedules jam-packed and the pressure to excel in all areas can be a contributing factor.
The way youth connect to one another and the world also contributes to their lack of time outdoors. We’ve never seen a more digitally connected generation with youth now spending about 7.5 hours a day with media but packing in about 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of content engagement into that time due to multitasking.
Media engagement isn’t the only thing rapidly evolving, though. Over 80% of Canadians now live in urban centres, meaning youth are surrounded by less nature and it’s less easily accessible.
Our communities’ youth need to connect to nature. In celebration of International Youth Day, we’re breaking down 4 ways spending time outdoors benefits youth.
Boosts mental health
Many of us have personally experienced the mood boosting benefits of a walk in nature or a bike ride with scenic views. This perk in mood isn’t just anecdotal, though – it’s backed by science.
This is also critical during COVID-19, where research has linked youth’s time spent in nature to improved mental health well-being and ability to deal with pandemic-related stressors.
Develops social skills and confidence
We all know the difference between unhealthy and healthy risk-taking behaviours.
When children and youth spend time outside playing and exploring, they take calculated risks like climbing play structures or jumping from one area to another. This teaches them healthy risk-taking behaviour and boosts confidence in their decision making.
A recent study even found kids who explored nature and enjoyed this type of “risky outdoor play” had improved social skills, creativity, and resilience.
Improves physical health
Youth play and connect to the outdoors in many ways, including running, biking, swimming, and more.
Although they’re exploring nature, they’re also getting exercise. This helps improve flexibility, keep their lungs and heart strong, and develop strong bones.
Creates habits lasting into adulthood
When youth are taught something in their early years, it’s easier to form healthy and long-lasting habits around that topic than to start fresh in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or beyond.
When youth spend time outside, they’re 20% more likely to participate in outdoor programs or explore nature independently when they’re older.
Are you or someone you know under 30 and wanting to connect with nature and CPAWS-OV?
We’re a strong believer that being outdoors is a necessary part of healthy communities. If we inspire the youth of today to appreciate nature, it can encourage the youth of tomorrow to continue protecting it and all the species which call it home.
We’re currently recruiting for our 2021-2022 season of the Canadian Wilderness Stewardship Program.
This educational experience is designed to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards in Canada by connecting youth to nature and their local communities.