A bag to collect pine cones and rocks. A bug jar to safely view insect pals. A kite to send soaring in the sky. A child’s beautiful smile.
In my practice as a pediatrician, I see a range of emotions in my clinic. When a little face lights up, it makes my day.
My colleagues and I at Project Nature are seeing more and more smiles since we’ve been handing out nature play kits this past year in selected clinics. We offer these kits along with information that includes brochures and website activities and places directories with the hopes that you as parents and caregivers will increase the time your kids spend outdoors. Through our pilot projects, we want to understand how much nature contact kids are getting and if they can be inspired to have more.
Research is confirming what I’ve been seeing in my practice for some time. Conditions such as ADD and ADHD, anxiety, depression and behavioral problems have increased among children as nature play and contact have decreased.
Studies show that time spent in nature is like preventive medicine. This contact can increase mental health and well being, improve motor skills, and boost focus and attention, among other positive impacts. Kids who spend time outside develop a greater appreciation for the environment.
We are in the process of compiling the results of these pilot studies to survey families, share nature play kits and assess the impact. Our goal in the second phase of our pilot that wrapped up this fall was to expose more culturally and economically diverse families and children to nature play.
We are encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve had from families and kids in our practices. Our goal is to expand Project Nature to clinics throughout the state and encourage more kids from all walks of life to experience the outdoors—for their health and for the health of the natural world.
To learn more about Project Nature and to get information and ideas for ways to give the children in your life more contact with the outdoors, see our website or follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
By Dr. Danette Glassy, MD, FAAP
Danette Swanson Glassy, MD, FAAP, is a co-founder and Board member of BestStart Washington. A primary care physician at Mercer Island Pediatrics since 1989, she earned her MD from the University of Washington and completed her pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s. Dr. Glassy is a clinical professor in pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, past president of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and chair of the American Academy’s Section on Early Education and Child Care. She served for two years on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Head Start Research and Evaluation Committee. In 2012, U.S. News & World Report named her as a Top Doctor. Dr. Glassy also has earned the Susan Aronson Early Education and Child Care Advocacy Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics.