We all want our children to be happy, healthy and resilient. By encouraging them to connect with nature, we can help make a positive difference to their mental and physical development.
Numerous studies show that children’s overall wellbeing improves when they have meaningful interactions with green spaces like grassy parks, nature trails or even community gardens.
Here, we list five reasons nature is great for kids.
Improves Mental Health
There’s a clear correlation between increasing screen-time and the number of children reporting mental health issues, depression and anxiety. According to stats from NHS Digital, one-in-six children in the UK aged 5-16 identify as having a probable mental disorder.
Yet numerous studies also show that children who engage with the natural world feel happier. The reasons why nature has such an effect are still being understood, but many of the benefits stem from the way our senses connect to sights, sounds, smells and sensations. Being in nature is grounding, immersive and encourages mindfulness.
Increases Mental Focus
The way children engage with nature requires a certain type of attention. It provides opportunities for close observation, interest and curiosity. There are strong links between attention and learning. One study looking at MRI brain scans in children in Barcelona found that even minimal access to green space or seeing trees and sky from a window, were associated with increased activity in the areas of the brain linked to memory, attention and cognitive test scores. Another study found that concentration levels in children diagnosed with ADHD improved after a walk in the park.
Builds Confidence, Imagination and Resourcefulness
Unstructured, free play outdoors enables children to lead and create their own activities, often working together with friends to solve problems and challenges.
A study by The Wildlife Trusts observed that primary school children participating in outdoor activities exhibited curiosity, active observation and engagement with nature. The children also experienced a number of benefits:
79 % felt more confident in themselves
79% thought they had a better relationship with their class-mates
81% thought they had a better relationship with their teachers
84% felt they are capable of new things when they try
Improves Physical Health
Kids that regularly venture outside for play are more likely to be physically active and able to build a positive relationship with exercise. The National Environmental Education Fund in the US found that children who live near a park are five times more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
Spending time outside also helps boost vitamin D levels, encourages better sleep and importantly reduces the chances of children developing myopia (near-sightedness), which is caused by lack of exposure to outdoor light. Cases have risen exponentially in recent years.
Encourages Environmental Responsibility
It’s fairly obvious, but when kids aren’t exposed to nature, they are less likely to engage with environmental issues and nature conservation as they grow older.
Research by the Wildlife Trusts found that nature activities increased children’s pro-environmental values and willingness to protect plants, animals and the environment, recycle and reduce energy and water use.
We know the screen-time battle is real! And UK weather can also be a big deterrent, but the evidence is clear: the health benefits associated with getting out into green outdoor spaces far outweigh the negatives. We hope you’ll join us on our mission to reconnect kids with the magic of nature!