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Dinosaur Train's Scott Sampson: Raise a 'wild child'

04/11/2015 08:08 EDT | Updated 06/14/2015 02:59 EDT
Author, museum curator and actor Scott Sampson says children are losing touch with nature and it's having an adverse effect on their health.

Sampson, a former Vancouverite and now vice-president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, plays the character Dr. Scott in the popular PBS series Dinosaur Train.

In his new book, How to Raise a Wild Child, Scott says the key to a healthier lifestyle is as easy as opening the front door.

"Just look at the numbers of obesity, diabetes, attention deficit disorder, depression. The rates of all of these conditions is skyrocketing," he told North by Northwest's Margaret Gallagher.

Here are his tips for getting children more comfortable with the outdoors.

1. Storytelling

Sampson says its up to the parents to give their children a reason to go outside. Kids tend to mimic what their parents do, and therefore a positive attitude towards the outdoors is key. 

"Storytelling is a wonderful way to convince them to be outdoors. Especially if you share stories from your own youth being outside".

2. Stop the "helicopter parenting"

It's doesn't benefit a parent or their children to always be around, according to Sampson. As children get older, it becomes increasingly important for them to have more autonomy and this is a necessary step.

"Let kids have some space. Sit on the periphery, let kids run their own play and only zoom in when necessary — which shouldn't be very often.

3. Stop structuring playtime

From homework to music lessons, a child's life is already too structured. Sampson believes the one time they should have the opportunity to be free of schedules should be during playtime. 

4. Lose the screen

In the age of technology this is no easy task, but a necessary one.

"The average kid spends seven to 10 hours a day looking at screens and less than 7 minutes playing outdoors. That's 90 per cent less than what their parents did when they were children." 

Sampson recommends parents try the 30-by-3 nature challenge. The idea focuses on making sure children get outdoors for 30 minutes a day for at least three days a week.

5. Nature is everywhere.

Living in an apartment or industrial area should not be an excuse for parents, stresses Sampson. He says the most important thing is to make sure children don't get overly comfortable on the couch.

"Nature connection is a contact sport, and both kids and nature can take it. Encourage kids to really get out there and get dirty. Clothes can be washed and cuts heal."

To hear the full interview with Scott Sampson, listen to the audio tab above.

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