Nature play has grown in popularity among schools and childcare centres in recent years, with many of them redesigning play areas to include natural elements such as playgrounds and including gardening into their daily activity. These activities managed to improve childrens physical activity, health-related fitness, motor skills, learning, and social and emotional development, according to the review.
The nationwide criticism over children spending too much time indoors has reached such proportions that it has been given a name: nature deficit disorder. Another major factor is parents growing concerns about diseases and the dangers of playing outside, despite evidence to the contrary.
According to recent research, both children and adults benefit from (and even require) spending time outside. Some argue that it can happen in any outdoor setting. Some argue that it must be a “green” environment, with trees and foliage. Others have demonstrated that simply looking at a picture of greenery can improve mental health. Aside from these nuances, most studies agree that children who spend more time outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than children who spend more time indoors. While it’s unclear how the improvements in cognitive function and mood occur, there are a few things we do know about why nature is good for children’s minds.
More than 400 studies have linked exposure to green spaces to improved health, including a healthier weight, reduced stress, improved vision, and a stronger immune system. A 138-page e-book published in August by the journal Frontiers in Psychology documented dozens of studies linking green-space exposure to better learning and cognitive development in children.
Encouraging children to spend more time in the outdoors and away from technology aids their physical well-being, and helps them improve their emotional and intellectual health, too. Whether it’s a trip to a nature park or taking a hike through the woods with their family, there’s no denying the benefits of stepping away from the screen and into the sunshine.