More Pediatricians Are Writing Prescriptions for Nature

A mother pushes her kindergarten aged girl on a swing set in the park. The mom and daughter laugh and smile together and enjoy a day out together in a forested park.

It was one of those afternoons.

My oldest son had fallen asleep during “rest hour,” and woken up impossibly grumpy. My youngest had not fallen asleep as long as he should have, and had also woken up on the wrong side of the toddler bed. They cried when they told us they were hungry. They cried when we offered them crackers. They cried when we left the room. They cried when we entered the room. No amount consoling, cajoling, or counseling was going to get us out of this funk.

Finally, I had enough.

“Everyone, outside! Right now!” I yelled.

I opened the door, grabbed one son’s shoes and practically pushed him out the door. My husband was close behind with the other one.

There was more crying. “I don’t want to go on a walk!” they yelled.

But after a few more protests, they slowly began to look around.

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We found chokecherries dangling off a branch squish. I pointed out the plums growing on another tree. The heaving sobs slowed to shudders, and they started wandering around. We looked at daisies that had recently blossomed and ants scurrying across the sidewalk.

“Okay, which way should we go?” I asked. They looked left, and right, and chose the direction of the nearest park. The heat was in the upper 90s and the air smelled faintly of wildfire smoke. But they were finally calm and the tantrums had ceased.

Many parents have found the outdoors to be a successful panacea for everything from teething toddlers to sparring siblings. But recently, even physicians are beginning to prescribe doses of nature to their patients.

In Washington, D.C. a program called Parks Rx aims to make it easier for doctors to prescribe outdoor activities to their patients. A partnership with the National Park Service, the program encourages outdoor time as a way to address the chronic health issues plaguing modern society – coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2…

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