Children Need Nature

Many studies of youth prove that a relationship with nature is beneficial to their overall well-being. 70% spend time in childcare settings, many for a total of 12,500 hours (equal to the time they'll spend getting their high school diplomas), so they desparately need exposure to the natural world, especially as their values about the outdoors are established within their first 5 years. Young people must be able to be in a play setting that helps them understand the beauty & complexity of nature, a lesson they'll never get in a sea of woodchips and equipment.

  • By playing in the natural environment, children’s coordination, balance skills, and agility improved, free play increased, they felt more comfortable about the natural environment, and their interest in and knowledge about nature increased. The natural environment is a stimulating arena for mastering and learning processes. (Ingunn Fjørtoft and Jostein Sageie, 2004)

  • The value of active exploration and intimate encounter with a natural landscape is crucial to mental and physical health, especially for children. (Rubenstein, 1998)

  • The younger the child the more the child learns through sensory and physical activity; thus, the more varied and rich the natural setting (e.g., rocks, running water, varieties of colors and sounds, and the wide range of permitted activities), the greater its contribution to the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of the child. (Rivkin, 1997)

  • The sights, smells, sounds and tactile stimuli of a school's outdoor environment can help greatly to enhance a child's perception of the elements of his environment that can enrich his world. When the senses become dulled through lack of use at a young age, a child may lose, forever, meaningful ways to derive satisfaction from his surroundings. (Schierloh, 1998)

  • While organized cardiovascular activities keep children fit, it appears that only spontaneous play (such as that found outside) provides brain connections that stimulate learning. (Schierloh, 1998). See also (Hinkle, 1988)

  • A recent study of fourth graders in an urban school conducted by Olga Jarrett of Georgia State University indicates that fidgeting and a general inability to focus is dramatically reduced on days when children are given the opportunity to go outside and play. (Meltz, 1999)

  • Children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) are better able to concentrate after contact with nature. (Taylor et al. 2001)

  • Children with views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. The greener, the better the scores. (Wells 2000, Taylor et al. 2002)

  • Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance, and agility, and they are sick less often. (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001)

  • When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative skills. (Moore & Wong 1997, Taylor et al. 1998, Fjortoft 2000).

Thanks to Randy at White Hutchinson for sharing these last 4 with us.

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