Even when children eat right and dutifully swallow multivitamins, they often lack a critical nutrient, because its absorption is blocked by the typical life most kids live. Called “Vitamin N” by some of the nation’s top pediatricians, this prescription doesn’t come in a pill: the N is for nature. Exposure to the natural world is considered a cure for various childhood health threats.
“Nature (Vitamin N) can have a profound positive effect on children’s mental and physical health,” says Mary Brown, M.D., a past member of the board of directors for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP’s plan to address some of the most urgent health threats to children, including obesity and the negative influence of electronic media, is to encourage exploration of the natural world. “Connecting children with nature has many positive effects that can last a lifetime,” says Brown.
Some pediatricians are so serious about Mother Nature and her invitation to unstructured play that they’re actually writing prescriptions for communing with nature. Given during child exams and known as Rx2Thrive, the prescriptions order outdoor time and connect the children and their parents to parks and recreation departments.
“We even prescribe ‘play coaches,’” says Brown, who is involved in the Deschutes Children’s Forest, a USDA Forest Service initiative that is one of nine children’s forests in the country and the only one with a health component.
Richard Louv, author of the bestseller Last Child in the Woods, labeled the condition caused by Vitamin…
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