Every year March arrives and I expect the temperatures to rise and the sun to shine. You’d think someone who has lived in Chicago all her life would know better! However, our bodies seem to crave the outdoors and the benefits nature brings to our physical and emotional wellbeing. Dr. Robert Zarr would concur since he recommends 120 minutes of outdoor physical activity for children, while the average is only 48 minutes.
Willow Wood’s staff was fortunate, once again, to attend the Alliance for Early Childhood’s Annual Preschool Summit on February 7. The Summit’s keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician at Unity Health Care in Washington, D.C. Daily, Zarr will, “write a specific prescription, with the name of the park, the activity, the duration, the frequency” for his young patients. He feels these prescriptions are needed due to many children’s over-scheduled daily routines. Compared to when he was growing up, it was normal for children to go outside and play. Today, outdoor play is even more essential because nature experience is particularly good at resting the brain from the burnout of looking at screens.
Spending time outdoors is good for physical and mental health, based in the expanding scientific literature. Much of this literature focuses on adults, Zarr states, with population studies showing that closer proximity to nature is connected to positive effects on a wide range of health issues including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, depression and anxiety. Zarr wants to instill consistent outdoor experiences in children, so once they become adults, this time spent outside will just be a part of their lives.
So, bundle up and take a walk with your child. Walk to school and avoid the need to find that parking spot! Wander around the beautiful nature experiences provided by Chicago Botanic Gardens. Brave the beach, even in the winter! It soon will be spring and the days of digging our toes in the warm sand will be reality!