We Care for What We Know and Love The Case for Healing the Broken Bond between Children and Nature Marti Erickson, Ph.D. Director Emerita, Harris Training Programs, U of M Co-founder & Chair, Children & Nature Network Co-host, Mom Enough™ , www.momenough.com. St. Croix River Association
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We Care for What We Know and Love The Case for Healing the Broken Bond between Children and NatureMarti Erickson, Ph.D.Director Emerita, Harris Training Programs, U of MCo-founder & Chair, Children & Nature NetworkCo-host, Mom Enough™, www.momenough.com
St. Croix River Association
May 11, 2012
has addressed these large
What does it take to raise a child to become a healthy, caring, responsible, respectful adult?
Especially for a child in high-risk circumstances, what are the protective factors that will enable that child to thrive and succeed?
But while my colleagues and I were studying these important risk and protective factors, something dramatic was happening to children and families across America, and we weren’t paying close enough attention!
I want to talk with you about that, in three parts:
Children stopped going outside!
• Decline in time spent playing outside (and shorter roaming radius)
• Decreased use of state & national parks
• Shift to structured, adult-directed activities when children are outside
• Parental fear
• Seductiveness of technology
• Shift to a reductionistic concept of learning
• Lack of access to natural environments (with significant disparities across different segments of the population)
Why does this matter? What are the benefits when children connect with nature?
• Better physical health
• Reduced stress and anxiety (for children & adults)
• Better concentration (note recent findings on ADHD)
• More cooperation, problem-solving and creativity
• Increased likelihood of being good stewards of the environment in adulthood
What can you and I do to connect children and
nature? When, where and how do we begin?
Working to heal the broken
bond between children and nature
Inspired by Richard Louv’s
book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder
The theory of biophilia:
Children have an innate
attraction to natural things.
parents and grandparents.
But parents don’t want one more “should,”
so how do we meet them where they are?
serves parents’ needs!
• Strengthen relationships
Together in nature,
many benefits, no harmful
“The only voyage of discovery…
consists not in seeking new
landscapes but in having new
Marcel Proust, 1923
• Make outdoor experience a part of your child’s
daily life from infancy on
• Make outdoor experience a part of YOUR
Note: near nature and small nature count. Simple is good!
to childcare providers and early childhood educators.
Return nature to schools, pre-K through 12th grade
(recess, natural play areas, school gardens,
outdoor learning centers)
• Nurture young “natural leaders”*
Make it cool to be outside!
* Natural Leaders Network,
an official program of C&NN…
in other previously existing programs
“Natural leaders” of all abilities at
Wilderness Inquiry in Minneapolis, MN
• Design communities to facilitate
nature experience for ALL children
Safe public transportation to nearby nature
Leave no child inside!
Simon, age 13
What can your organization do to connect children and families to nature?
• Provide transformational experiences in nature for people
of all ages
• Promote the 3 Cs in nature (connection, competence and
• Engage parents and other caregivers to bridge children’s
program experiences into their daily lives
• Partner with early childhood programs, schools and other
• Advocate for children’s health and learning through nature
information to give children the gift of a true connection to nature?
To learn more, visit