In the animated film “Tarzan II,” young Tarzan (voiced by Harrison Chad) has to come to terms with his place in the family of apes that has adopted him and with his life in the jungle. After travels and tribulations, he does just that, thriving because of his happy relationship with the nature around him.
There’s a lot of research on the cognitive and emotional benefits to kids of regularly spending time in nature. They include better school performance, more creativity, improved fitness, less depression and hyperactivity, stronger bones, improved eyesight (less nearsightedness) and better sleep. But too many of today’s youngsters have what’s been called nature-deficit disorder. It’s a nonmedical term that describes behavioral and developmental/learning problems, from attention deficits to depression, that can arise when kids live indoors, staring at a digital screen five or more hours a day.
How do you change your video-gaming 12-year-old into a Tarzan too? A new study out of North Carolina State University says solitary activities in which your child is one-on-one with nature, such as fishing or hiking, are keys to building a strong love of nature, as are outdoor social activities, such as playing sports or camping. So head to a local, state or national park, take a drive in the country, and let your child explore and discover new and mysterious plants and animals. Remember, Mom and Dad, it’s a sedentary lifestyle that imperils your child’s health and happiness. (Psst! That’s as true for you as it is for your kids).