Children today spend just half the time outside that their parents’ generation did. The consequences of our nature-deficit disorder are still largely anecdotal, but obvious: shorter attention spans. Diminished cognition. Lowered creative-thinking skills. Childhood obesity.
Meanwhile, some experts have come forward with a shocking new stat: that kids ought to be outside, on average, between three and six hours a day. That’s almost exactly what they’re spending on their computer screens; but more than six times the amount of outdoor hours the average child gets these days.
One way for our screen-addicted culture to hit these numbers? Nature preschools, where childhood education is centered around time spent in the great outdoors (one survey found that, on average across all nature preschool programs, students spent three-quarters of the school day outside). This style of classroom is gaining traction—from suburbs to cities—and fast. There are now more than 250 nature preschools and kindergartens serving around 10,000 US children every year—a 66-percent increase over the year prior.