Canadian children are spending more time with screens and less time out in nature and that is having a negative effect on their physical and mental health, says Jill Sturdy, a manage with Nature Canada. This non-profit has worked to protect wildlife and their habitats for almost 80 years. And now it is campaigning to get children back outdoors and appreciating nature.
‘As simple as going for a walk’
“It’s (about) spending time just getting outside,” says Sturdy. “It can be as simple as…going for a walk after dinner, starting to explore some of your local nature trails. It can even be as simple as setting up a bird feeder in your backyard or on your balcony and just starting to get to know some of the birds and other wildlife.”
Children greatly exceed recommended screen time
She acknowledges Canadians lead busy lives and children often have activities scheduled after school or in evenings. But she suggests families take note of how they spend their time and then look at how they can modify that to allocate more time for the outdoors. And Nature Canada has several other tips to encourage families.
A recent report suggests that teenagers in Canada are spending up to seven hours a day on screens which is much more than the recommended limit of two hours a day. And 85 per cent of children aged five to 17 do not get the recommended sleep, physical activity or screen times.
Sturdy says adults too, could greatly benefit from time more time spent in nature. “The great thing about Canada, it doesn’t matter where you live in this country, we have access to nature. Even in some of the most urban centres…you don’t need to go far. Most Canadians live within less than a kilometre away from a park. So, it’s there. We just need to get out and discover it.”
The benefits for children, she says, include dissolving stress and anxiety, promoting physical activity, creativity and co-operation.
Time outdoors is good for kids, good for nature, says conservationists
“Children are naturally curious,” says Sturdy. “When they’re outside in nature it just evokes that curiosity and sense of wonder…It gives them a chance to learn and explore, discover and really understand our natural environment…
“It helps to foster that life-long love for nature and now more than ever we need strong voices for nature. So, we want to provide these opportunities for our kids.”
Nature Canada’s Jill Sturdy knows Canadians are busy but suggests ways and why they should make time for nature.Listen