Time in nature helps develop naturally brighter kids!
Source: Summary of Planet Ark’s Planting Trees Report
There is an emerging body of local and international research linking childhood contact with nature to a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits. Planet Ark’s 2012 report, Planting Trees: Just What The Doctor Ordered, includes two elements: a review of local and international research into the intellectual, psychological, physical and mental health benefits of contact with nature for children; and the results of a new Australian study called the Nature and Children’s Health Survey, which was commissioned by Planet Ark and conducted by research company Pollinate. This survey focuses on how Australians, particularly those who regularly care for children, perceive the link between nature and children’s health, wellbeing and development. Below is a summary of the finding.
Green equals serene: Contact with nature is good for mental health
Researchers have found that contact with nature helps reduce stress in children.
A US study found that stress levels were reduced for children with high levels of nearby nature (nature close to their homes) compared with those with little nearby nature.
The same US study found that children with higher levels of nearby nature had a higher sense of self-worth. High self-worth in children makes them more resilient during life’s stressful times.
- Deeper, more active contact with nature can provide children with calming and stabilising memories that they can draw on during stressful periods later in life.
Green boosts the brain: Contact with nature is good for the mind
Research has shown that contact with nature can provide a wealth of learning opportunities and improve academic achievement.
- Nature has been shown to restore the ability to direct attention and improve the processing of information after extended periods of concentration. This is called Attention Restoration Theory.
- A Florida-based study found that environment- based education increased critical thinking skills in high school students.
- Learning to discriminate, categorise and name different objects is a critical part of a child’s intellectual development. The rich diversity of nature provides extensive opportunities for children to acquire these abilities.
- Researchers at the University of Illinois have been investigating nature-based activities and their potential to ADHD in children. They have found that children with ADHD and ADD concentrate, complete tasks and follow directions better after they play outside in green settings. The greener the settings, the more improvement they show. Furthermore, children with ADHD concentrate better after a 20-minute walk in a park than after a 20-minute walk in a well-kept urban setting.
- A study also found that children in areas with trees and vegetation show more creative social play than children in more barren, hard-surfaced or built play areas.
Green is for “go”: Contact with nature is good for the body
- Research has shown a link between body mass index (BMI) scores in children and their access to “green” areas and levels of outdoor play. BMI is often used by health authorities and researchers to indicate healthy weight ranges.
- Researchers at the University of South Australia suggest that while increasing the residential density of an area may make it more ‘walkable’ for residents, it can come at the expense of open green space, which research shows is strongly associated with healthier body weight in children. They argue that improving the ‘walkability’ of a neighbourhood may not be the best thing for preventing obesity in children.
- Contact with nature through vegetable gardening at home or school can play a role in promoting healthy eating in children. Food gardening at school offers an opportunity for children to learn about nutrition and supports healthy eating choices.
- Natural environments encourage resilience and flexibility and improve balance and coordination in children.
- Outdoor play can have an impact on eyesight. Outdoor environments challenge children’s eyes with a diversity of focal points at a wide range of distances from the eye, giving them the stimulation and exercise they need to develop.
The Planet Ark Nature and Children’s Health Survey showed that most people (85%) agree that nature-based events or activities such as are a good way for kids to connect with and value nature. National Tree Day is Australia’s largest tree planting and nature care event, where kids and their families can get out into nature and have fun in their local environment. With thousands of sites at schools, parks, gardens and other locations across the country, National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day are great ways for Aussie kids and their families to get their daily dose of green – just what the doctor ordered! Join over 2,000 schools and libraries across the country in the largest nature-care and tree planting event in Australian schools. You’ll be joining thousands of inspiring teachers in making a difference, fostering a young person’s love of nature and creating positive environmental change. Nothing so simple could be more important for the planet or the future health and wellbeing of our children. So, get growing! It only takes a minute to register at treeday.planetark.org.
This article summarises the Planting Trees report, which is available at http://treeday.planetark.