When I began my practice of pediatrics, I worked with two doctors who were among the very first in my city to specialize in the care of children. Believe it or not, in the 1950’s, the field of pediatrics was a brand new specialty!
One of the things I remember most about the senior pediatrician I worked with back then was his ‘Advice Tablet.’ Today, a tablet is a kind of computer like an iPad, but then, it was simply paper. This change in the meaning of the word, tablet serves to illustrate the hi-tech world in which we live. Unlike at today’s wellness visit, the tablet was a place to record the baby’s measurements and a bit of advice. My computer tablet creates a full electronic health record, and sometimes I think it says so much that I can’t see the forest for the trees (no pun intended; you’ll see!)
One of my favorite instructions on the doctor’s Advice Tablet was to be sure that the baby gets at least thirty minutes of fresh air each day. As a brand new mother, this seemed charming and sweet. I was too polite to consider that evidence-based medicine might not approve his recommendation, and I did my best to follow the suggestion. Could outside time, regardless of the season, be that critical to my new baby’s health?
As it turns out, there is an emerging research based understanding that the more hi-tech we become, the more nature we do need. Watch:
Richard Louv is a well respected journalist who has written extensively about the role of the outdoors in our lives. But even in the absence of evidence-based medicine to support his and my child’s first pediatrician-philosophy, there is some common sense to the idea. Our lives move at the speed of the Internet at times, and in the woods or the backyard, things slow down.
Kids who play outside have the opportunity to learn to be independent, to problem solve, and to see the world in a discoverable way. As they play pretend, it’s a time to run and not worry about breaking something or waking a napping sibling. Sure, you can come up with a million worries: there are safety concerns; they may play with matches or get poison ivy. That’s not the point. (But we can come back to it because safety is an important point.)
The take-home message is that the more hi-tech we are, the more nature we need. Louv asserts that we need to be mindful of our natural world by living IN it, not just politely along side it. I think he’s right. I must teach my children to be good stewards of the Earth, and these lessons extend far beyond the familiar litterbug admonishment. When I’m admonished to be outside for thirty minutes a day, regardless of the weather, I see the world differently. Thanks to my children’s first pediatrician: I have added Fresh Air Time to my list of health recommendations. So step away from the computer tablet…and go outside to play.