Home EnvironmentalResearch Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
EnvironmentalBy Trista -

Most people naturally know that they feel better after spending time outdoors, even if it’s only a few minutes. This notion will make most of us want to go out for a walk, sit outside, or go to our favorite location to listen to the birds and other nature sounds. The problem is that most children don’t understand the reason for the feeling. They’re not meant to stop and think about what makes them feel good or how nature can help them find more peace.

Because of the increase in technology, the feeling people have (especially children) when they’re outside is slowly decreasing because they simply ignore it. They are usually too focused on their phones to realize that spending time in nature has several benefits. This idea makes it up to the parents to ensure that children get away from technology. Moreover, that they focus on what is going on outdoors. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done – especially if your child is older. If you need to help your children understand the importance of nature on their well-being, you’ve come to the right article.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
It doesn’t matter if children walk, run, or practice yoga because it’s all a form of exercise that can help them move while in nature. Shutterstock.

Children are Encouraged to Exercise

It seems that no matter how old a child is when they find themselves in nature, they will want to run and play. While the older kids might walk, talk, or even just enjoy the scenery, younger children seem to run, laugh, and play more the closer they are to green pastures – even if it’s their backyard. This notion isn’t only because of any toys or equipment, such as swings, they have to play. It’s also because there is something about nature that makes children more active. That means communities with more trees are ideal environments for healthy kids.

A recent Canadian study looked at the amount of tree space in specific neighborhoods and found that children between the ages of 11 and 13 were more active outside when there were more trees. While this meant that children who lived in the country were more active close to home, cities offer trees and parks. If you aren’t lucky enough to live near a park in the city, you might have to drive your children there to play. When childhood obesity is increasingly common, it’s definitely worth the drive to the park to give your child time in nature.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
One of the most critical steps to take as a parent or caregiver is to ensure that you build confidence in children. Shutterstock.

Playing Outside Helps Build Their Confidence 

Self-confidence is one of the most important characteristics people can possess. It helps you believe that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, even in the face of challenges. It’s also known to help decrease the likelihood of depression and other factors that lead many people to struggle with their identity. Parents or caregivers must start building their children’s self-confidence from an early age by encouraging them to be creative, teaching them how to solve problems, and supporting them through their development. One surefire way to help develop your child’s self-confidence is to have them spend time in nature.

There are many ways that kids can start to build their confidence. You probably don’t even realize it’s happening. For example, when facing a challenge such as climbing a tree or setting up a tent, they build up their confidence. They also do this by playing and making up games that allow them to find their creativity. When children play outside, they stretch out their physical skills, which gives them a better handle on their motor skills. When a child feels more confident in their body, they are more comfortable with themselves. It’s easy to see how beneficial nature can be for helping develop a child’s self-confidence.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
A recent study has shown that walking in nature vs. walking on the sidewalk in a busy city can improve your memory by up to 20%. Shutterstock.

Walking Improves Memory

When you think about reasons to have your children spend more time in nature, it’s easy to know about the exercise. However, there is another reason that most people don’t think about, and that’s how walking in nature can help boost your memory. You might wonder if your children need a boost in this area because they’re young and seem to remember more than they should. However, starting the habit of walking every day when they’re young will only help them as they grow older. The key is to get your children to look beyond any city walls that they see every day.

While walking anywhere is excellent, a study completed by the University of Michigan compared the memory between people who walked in Mother Nature vs. the city streets and found that Mother Nature helped boost memory by up to 20%. If you live in the city, maybe you’ll find a great hiking trail outside of town or discover a few country roads with groves of trees you and your family can enjoy. You don’t even have to disrupt your busy schedule very much to reap the benefits of walking. Only ten minutes a day of light activity is needed to boost memory.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Children learn about the world when they’re outside, even if it’s playing in the dirt. Shutterstock.

The Many Intellectual Benefits

To children, the outside world is like a giant laboratory that they’re learning about every day. They are the ones that will often stop to feel and smell flowers because it helps them understand the world on their terms. Because of this, it is essential to let your young children take their time as they walk to the car or into a building, even if you’re running a bit late. It’s always more important to let their minds grow through learning. The environment is always changing. Therefore, it’s suitable for all of us to stop and take it all in sometimes.

When children are walking in nature, they’re looking at how the world comes together. They’re thinking, asking questions, and developing hypotheses that help their intellectual minds develop. For example, they might start jumping between large rocks to understand the difference in space between them. They might begin to dig in the dirt to feel the different soil texture or watch how bugs move. When children are allowed spontaneous, undirected play in nature, they will find countless opportunities to observe nature, explore the space, interpret their surroundings, and learn more about the world. For younger children, interactions with the natural world can be more guided.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Sometimes you need Mother Nature to help teach your children life lessons, such as responsibility. Shutterstock.

Mother Nature Teaches Responsibility

Another vital characteristic that you want your children to build is responsibility. It seems that this is more difficult than you might imagine, especially when they start to grow older. Sometimes you might feel like you’re pulling out your hair and wondering if they understand you or hear what you’re saying. Don’t worry. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. One trick that you can use to make your job a little easier is to send your children outside and let Mother Nature help your children to learn responsibility. In nature, kids can learn responsibility through trial and error.

You can do this by asking your children to help take care of watering the plants and maintaining the garden. If you have any animals, children can help take care of them as well. Children should learn about nature because if you don’t take care of what’s in it, things will die. Plants and animals alike need to be taken care of and nurtured responsibly to survive. One way your child can learn this fact is by taking out the roots of a flower. This way, they can understand that the flower dies due to a lack of nutrients it needs to survive.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Compassion will create a ripple effect in your children as they will carry the trait with them no matter where they are or who they’re with. Shutterstock.

Your Children Can Learn How to Be Kind to Nature

Compassion is an essential word globally, and one that many people feel is fading, especially with the world-changing as it is lately. Because of this, you must teach your children to be kind to everyone and let Mother Nature help them learn how to be gentle with her. There are many opportunities to teach your children how to be kind to nature. You can clean a trail or read books about nature. Alternatively, you could observe bugs and categorize them and learn about them. Even just having lunch outside allows children the experience of enjoying and watching the nature all around them.

While your children are learning responsibility, they can also learn compassion. They can learn how to treat the world around them, from picking up their garbage and recycling to being gentle with plants and flowers. If a child pulls a plant up by the roots, they will quickly see how damaging this is to the plant. When they understand this, they will be sure to treat plants gently in the future. When kids help clean up their favorite wooded trail, they will directly see the positive impact. If your children help out in the garden, they will take what they have learned about being gentle with plants and see how their efforts result in food or beautiful flowers.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Children who have anxiety are more likely to struggle with academics and making friends. Shutterstock.

Nature Helps Reduce Anxiety

Anxiety is a growing mental disorder that can pop up at any moment, whether it’s worrying about something that might happen or something that is happening. While it is characterized by worry, other symptoms in children include being afraid of school or other public places, fears about being away from their parents, repeated episodes of sudden and intense fear, having trouble breathing, feeling dizzy, and shaky. A little over 7% or 4.4 million children are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Don’t dismay – it seems as though spending time in nature can help alleviate stress and anxiety, so a quick walk will help children feel less anxious.

One study that focused on children with anxiety noticed that their symptoms decrease when they play in green schoolyards over children who don’t. These children noted that they’re not as afraid of their peers and showed a more supportive role in social groups. Exercise in nature is a useful tool for combating anxiety. Not only do natural scenes help children feel less stressed in general, taking a brisk walk in nature has been shown to reduce anxiety even more than exercising indoors. If your child has been experiencing anxiety lately, try taking them for a walk on a wooded trail.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
The activities kids play outdoors from building an igloo to creating games can help them learn independence. Shutterstock.

Nature Helps Kids Learn Independence

It’s hard to learn when to start teaching your children independence – and how. You want them to gain the skills they need to be successful in all areas of their life, yet it’s hard as a parent or caregiver to know when to step back. It’s also hard when it comes to knowing if your directions or actions are helping the children. Fortunately, just like Mother Nature can help your children learn responsibility, it can assist in independence. According to a Psychology Today blog, children need to develop a sense of independence through uncontrolled play to be confident and resilient later in life.

Mother Nature helps with this because children feel more free outdoors than indoors. They can run around and make more decisions in their lives, which allows them to learn how to problem-solve and provides natural consequences. Just as important, while they’re playing in the yard, children can be less watched and supervised even if it’s in their own yard by adults. Even the small and unstructured moments, such as building a fort, can help them learn. In addition to the intellectual benefits of learning about the outdoors through play and experimentation, children learn things like confidence and self-esteem through unstructured outdoor play in nature.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Happiness creates a positive ripple effect in your life that goes from feeling emotionally happy to see the world in a new light. Shutterstock.

Your Children Will Feel Happier

You probably know how your emotions change when you’ve been outside. For example, you might go for a 15 to 20-minute walk after a bad day and head home to feel relieved and happier. This emotion can grow in your children as well. Something about nature helps us not to dwell on things and lowers our stress because natural scenes calm us instead of demanding our attention as our screens do. Symptoms of depression and fatigue also tend to diminish after spending some quality time in nature. Sometimes just feeling awestruck by nature makes all our problems seem to melt away in the grand scheme.

One reason for this is that nature can help you feel psychologically restored, precisely what one Finnish study proves. It states that spending just 15 minutes in the environment helped people feel emotionally and mentally better and happier. Of course, this creates a positive ripple effect on your physical well-being. Some studies have also shown that time in nature has a positive impact on mental health because it results in a stronger sense of belonging. In our increasingly disconnected world, it makes sense that seeking a connection with nature and the larger world around us will provide a significant mood boost.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Doing something small like playing in the sand can help your children feel better emotionally. Shutterstock.

The Many Emotional Benefits of Nature

Happiness is not the only emotion that nature will increase in your life. It will make you feel positive in many ways and for many reasons. Nature gives children several moves and things to explore that gets their creative and intellectual juices flowing. They can make noises, as much as they want, and show all types of self-expression. Nature has also been found to lower blood pressure and stress, so a brisk walk in the park can improve your child’s overall mood. Not only that, but it will reduce their anxiety levels and gives a boost to their self-esteem as well.

Even though your children might look like they’re causing chaos, they feel a sense of peace when they’re playing in nature. It also helps them slow down and look at what surrounds them, even if it’s taking time to dig in the sand or dirt. Playing in dirt has a positive effect on children and helps them have happier lives. It feels good to jump and run and yell out loud. When children can express themselves like this, they will feel less tension and restlessness. It’s incredible how effective nature is for helping children feel peaceful and soothed.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Using your senses in nature will help give you the best human experience possible. Shutterstock.

Children Receive Different Stimulation 

Children learn many ways, and one of them is through their senses, such as touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling the outdoor environment. You might think that nature doesn’t have as much stimulation as their video games, but there is more than what meets the eye. The trick is to pay more attention to your surroundings and get them to ask questions. In nature, a child who is paying attention can learn a lot about the world by playing and trying things out if they are curious about nature. Even something as simple as jumping from one rock to another or climbing a tree engages a child’s mind and allows them to learn.

Researchers have looked at how nature helps children develop intellectually for decades, and they’ve realized that the fewer time children spend in nature, the more narrow their senses become. This fact causes them to miss many of the natural human experience that the body and mind crave. Researches have thoroughly documented the benefits of being in nature across all five senses. For children, especially, touching nature with their hands was shown to help their physical development. That’s not all! Tactile experience in nature helps children build social skills and even contributes to their cognitive development, as they learn about nature in their own way.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Help your children learn how to improve their concentration by having them go for a walk or play outside for 20 minutes every day. Shutterstock.

Focus Improves When Playing Outside

In the ever-changing world of technology, the brain’s ability to focus on a specific task becomes more laborious. You turn on the television or have music as background noise when trying to work or study for school. This concept makes it harder to keep your mind focused on the present to get your projects done. Researchers have found that one way to help with this problem is being active in nature, even for just a short time. In one study, a 50-minute walk in a natural setting decreased anxiety and other emotions that pull us out of focus while also improving memory.

There are many reasons why you want to help your children improve their focus. Other than increasing their productivity, it will also reduce stress, build momentum, and enhance their work quality. Several studies show that when your children spend at least 20 minutes outside, their focus improves. Allow them to go out for a walk in the park or play in the backyard. Building focus isn’t even all about work. According to Harvard Health Blog, the outdoors is an excellent place for children to have unstructured free play, which is essential for developing cognitive abilities, like focus and practicing decision making, all while having fun.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Let your children pretend their bear is real so they can build on their imagination. Shutterstock.

Nature Brings Out a Child’s Imagination

Have you ever sat back and watched your children play, especially when they’re younger? You might have seen them play games with an imaginary friend or pretend that certain parts of the ground are lava, and they need to jump around it. While everything looks normal, they believe in what they’re playing because their imagination is behind the steering wheel. When kids use their imagination like this, no matter how silly the games they play, they develop their minds. When kids play with their creativity, it is all about their ideas and decisions, so they practice thinking skills simultaneously.

Scientific studies show that kids who watch television, play video games, or on the screen only use two senses, which causes their imagination to get stuck. They don’t find themselves imagining another world and building their perceptual abilities. Because nature helps get most of their senses going, their imagination gets a boost. The benefits kids get from this kind of all-sense experience offered by nature are too many to count! To name a few, though, playing with nature in person gives kids more sensory information than looking at screens. The information children playing in nature take in through all senses helps them build connections that will help them later with vocabulary and literacy.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Studies show that nature can help a person heal after surgery, but it can also help improve emotionally and mentally. Shutterstock.

Nature Can Help Your Children Heal

There are many ways that children can hurt themselves. You might feel like you’re listening to crying several times a day because someone is always getting hurt, whether it’s a small cut on the finger or a broken bone. Even though children are known to heal from injuries faster than adults, nature can still give them the added benefit of making a full recovery as quickly as possible with less pain. In addition to helping them heal faster from injuries, nature gives kids a chance to take risks. Small challenges like climbing a tree, while presenting the risk of getting hurt, can teach kids to be confident as they get better and try again.

Some studies show that the more people are exposed to natural light, such as from the sun and moon, during healing (specifically after surgeries), they report less pain than other participants who didn’t spend as much time in nature. Think of nature as a natural drug that allows everyone to take less pain medication and heal physically, emotionally, and even mentally at a faster level. Research on hospital design has also shown that gardens or even just large windows with lush, green natural views increase recovery rates from surgeries and reduce pain medications required by patients. The benefits of nature for healing and feeling less pain have been proven in hospital settings.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Children can boost their social skills by playing outside because they dig into their imagination and develop their own rules and learn how to solve problems without constant adult interference. Shutterstock.

The Many Social Benefits of Nature

There are dozens of benefits for children when it comes to them spending time in nature. Other than emotional, there are also social benefits that you’ll notice as they start to spend more time outdoors. One of the most significant social benefits is you can find other children for them to play with. No matter how old they are, they will start interacting and finding ways to play with each other. All this builds communication as they work out how these games will work. However, they will also use their imagination when they’re playing by themselves, and this can also help them boost their social skills.

One reason for this is because children will spend most of their time away from their parents or caregivers. This freedom allows them to make up their own rules and solve their problems without interference with how they should handle the situation. It can also help them develop empathy and learn to be gentle with other people and animals, and learning empathy is huge for social development. According to Harvard Health Blog, children cannot understand all of the social skills they will need later as adults if they don’t get the kind of unstructured, self-directed play that comes most easily outside in nature.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Your children will fall asleep quickly and probably stay asleep longer when they spend much time playing outside. Shutterstock.

Your Children Will Sleep Better

One of the best features about the outdoors is that it gives your children a large amount of room to run and play to their heart’s content. Once you get your children outside, you might struggle to get them inside because they want to continue playing in nature with their toys and imagination. When kids get enough outside time, there are a ton of benefits, including improved concentration, overall physical and mental health, and even falling and staying asleep. Kids need between 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night, and not getting enough sleep can negatively impact their development.

Because their minds and bodies are busy, kids who spend more time playing outside are more likely to fall asleep faster than average. Therefore, if your children are struggling with insomnia, falling asleep, or waking up often throughout the night (more than usual for their age) and don’t spend much time in nature – get them outside. You will quickly notice the difference when it comes to their sleep routine. Getting enough sleep is essential for a child’s development. A better sleep routine will help your child’s mental and physical development and aid in the healthy development of behavioral skills, social interactions, and psychological maturity.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
The outdoors can help children learn how to interact with other people and feel a part of a community. Shutterstock.

Nature Helps Kids Build a Sense of Community

You have probably heard the phrase it takes a community to help raise a child. While most people tend to stick to parenting their children and rarely asking for help, the old saying is true. There is always a community that helps raise your children, and you just don’t ever think of it. For instance, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, and many others help teach your children certain parts of life. Student/teacher and also peer-to-peer relationships are enhanced when in nature. Children who feel left out in indoor environments see improved relationships with peers and teachers when outdoors.

Researchers in Canada have shown that when children live in a greener environment, they feel a stronger sense of place. They have a stronger sense that they belong to that community, and that’s essential. This idea helps improve your children’s emotions as they build their self-esteem by knowing they matter. They also learn how to engage with other people, their environment, and help keep everyone healthy and safe. Another study shows that people who live in areas with more greenery feel safer and have better relationships with neighbors, so children likely have an easier time making new friends in greener places.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
By playing outside, your children can build their immune system, which helps keeps them healthy. Shutterstock.

The Many Physical Benefits

There are dozens of physical benefits your children will receive while playing outside. Depending on the activities they play will depend on what muscles they build up. For instance, if they focus on running, they will strengthen their legs more than their arms and back. If they concentrate on climbing trees, they will enhance their arms and legs. Even motor skills are more advanced in kids who play outside instead of their peers who spend more time indoors. Because playing outside lets children test their physical abilities, they end up with more mastery and confidence over their movements.

Another benefit to their physical health is that they receive a lot of Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, building a robust immune system, and improving their emotional and mental health. Also, their overall fitness will increase. That is because they’re busy with their activities and burn calories. Studies have also shown an apparent link between the amount of time spent outside and BMI. It’s probably not a huge shock to learn that when kids spend more time playing outside, they tend to have a lower BMI. Maintaining a healthy BMI lowers a child’s risk for long-term health issues.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Take time to bring your children outside and play with them, whether it’s going for a walk, bike ride, or playing their favorite outdoor game. Shutterstock.

Nature Helps Children Develop Stronger Ties With Their Family

Take a moment to think about how much time you spend with your children, partner, and even your parents. With so much technology, children spend more and more time alone in their rooms doing what they enjoy, but this weakens family ties. Even by ensuring you have a family game or movie night, one day a week isn’t enough time to strengthen your family members’ connection. We all know how important family time is for building and maintaining a strong family bond, but scheduling can be challenging. What can we do to get more family time out of our busy weeks?

Surveys show that families who spend time outdoors, even just 5 minutes, whether it’s going for a bike ride, walk, or camping, feel closer than families who spend most of their time indoors. They admit that outdoor experiences and letting go of their desire to check or spend most of the time in front of screens help improve family relationships. It can also teach your children how to communicate better because they spend more time talking to people around them than texting or messaging their friends and family members. In addition to that, spending time outside with your family is good for everyone’s mood, concentration, and overall well-being.

Research Shows Letting Kids Play In Nature Could Change Their Growth
Nature will help your children build up their mental health in a positive direction, which can stick with them for the rest of their lives. Shutterstock.

The Importance Of Mental Health and Nature

When it comes to a person’s overall well-being, it’s important to remember that your emotional, mental, and physical health are tied together. It doesn’t matter how old a person is; when someone is hurting emotionally, they can hurt mentally and even physically. For example, when children are anxious, they will complain of a stomach ache. Having poor mental health can harm our physical health, setting us up for health complications down the line. Thankfully, studies have shown that spending time in nature correlates with better coping skills for stress and anxiety.

To help improve your children’s mental health, you want to send them outside (or spend time with them outside) for at least 20 minutes a day. This concept will build their happiness level up, but it will also make them feel better overall. In return, they might feel sick less often. The positive emotions they feel while they’re playing outside will create a ripple effect in their lives that will continue as long as they keep spending time in nature. While exercise is an ideal outdoor activity and also a mood-booster, just spending time hanging out in a green space has been found to improve well-being.