BENEFITS OF CONNECTING CHILDREN WITH NATURE In today’s society, children are becoming more and more disconnected from the natural world. With the help of television, computers, video games and cell phones, children have developed a lack of interest when it comes to spending quality time outdoors. Research suggests children without direct experiences in nature will miss out on crucial opportunities to enhance their overall well-being, health and relationships.
Several studies have shown that children who play in nature develop more capacities for creativity, intellectual development and problem solving. The same studies also found that kids who engage in playtime outdoors also play more cooperatively with other children.
Learning about nature and science helps children expand their vocabulary and develop a broader understanding of basic science concepts. The increase in environmental concerns makes it even more important for children to study nature and science, which is why a nature and science learning center is a must-have for early care and education environments. Including a nature and science learning center in your classroom will give children opportunities to explore the world around them through hands-on learning and will help nurture children’s interest and concern for our environment now and as adults.
- It builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.
- It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
- It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant, or pull a flower out by its roots.
- It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow,” “and this reduces the richness of human experience.”
- It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Your kid doesn’t have to be joining the local soccer team or riding a bike through the park—even a walk will get her blood pumping. Not only is exercise good for kids’ bodies, but it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for kids with ADHD..
- It reduces stress and fatigue. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.
So while screen time is the easier, more popular choice, it’s important to set aside time for outdoor play. For fun, stimulating activities you and your kids can do in nature, see Ideas for Getting Your Kids into Nature.