8 and counting benefits of connecting children with nature

Versione in italiano

The benefits of outdoor activities are today demonstrated by a lot of academic researches: spending time in a green space and not surrounded by concrete has important positive effects on people of all ages.
If we take a look at the world of childhood, there are schools and childcare centres that have adopted learning projects in the open air (OLEs, Oudtoor Learning Environments): an important attempt to compensate for the reduced opportunities that families have to get in contact with nature today.
But how does the nature contribute to the healthy growth of children, in addition to keeping them physically active?

  1. Nature stimulates the creative and cooperative play of children, but also their problem-solving ability (Kellert, 2005). A child must use imagination to invent stories, he is not simply required to live and manage the stories invented for him by others, as it happens with video games.
  2. It enhances cognitive and concentration abilities (Wells, 2000).
  3. It improves academic performance (up to 27% according to the American Institutes for Research, 2005)
  4. It reduces the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms, already starting from 5 years of age (Kuo and Taylor, 2004)
  5. It improves eyesight and reduces rates of nearsightedness (myopia) in children and adolescents (American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011)
  6. It helps developing healthy and spontaneous social relationships, because relationships are freer and unstructured (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005)
  7. It stimulates self-discipline and self-control (Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, 2001)
  8. It reduces stress (Wells and Evans, 2003)

But there are those who go further.
Richard Louv, in his book "The last child in the woods", writes that there is a real "nature deficit disorder" caused by the drastic lifestyle change of the last thirty years.

Photo by Niki Boon

Photo by Niki Boon

Sara Maitland, in her book "Gossip from the Forest", says that children need to play outdoors, better if unguarded, better if in a forest, where they can have the impression of being hidden and not under the control of adults, but without being really far away and actually at earshot. Often, Maitland writes, we limit their imagination and creativity, thinking to protect them even if for children, statistics at hand, there are more dangers in a house than in a nowadays forest.
In the last century, every child has lost at least one hour a day of time spent outdoor without being under the control of someone: a real damage to the development of his personality, to his need to test and learn.
Without making the radical choice of Niki Boon, who decided to raise her children with no technology at all, in close contact with the earth and its creatures, wild and free, we strongly believe that nature heals, gives happiness, enhances our existence.
This is why we write about it, this is why we travel through it.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you could read THIS RESEARCH by Deakin University, Australia.

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