Natural Healing: Why Kids Need Nature for Good Health
July 7, 2017 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink

by Jackie Edwards

Today’s parents have been accused of raising an ‘indoor generation’, starved of the beauty of nature and the freedom of the great outdoors. Research shows that children are spending half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago. The effect is inevitably harmful. In fact, there’s a growing body of research that shows that when children spend less time outdoors it negatively affects their health. There’s no doubt about it…kids need nature!

How can kids engage with nature?


The greatest health benefits are seen when children are given the freedom and independence to play their own games with natural materials in outdoor settings, whether woodland, open countryside, parks or backyards. They become fitter, happier, smarter, more attentive, more sociable and less anxious. But if you struggle to find green space in your urban home, don’t despair as health benefits can still be gained by simply looking at pictures of nature scenes with your child. The essential thing is allowing your child to engage with nature, be it through play or through images.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits.

Improves physical health

If your child has the opportunity to play outside, it will help improve their physical fitness – an important consideration for the one in three American children who are obese. What’s more, being outdoors increases exposure to vitamin D which boosts immunity and helps protect your child from future bone problems, heart disease and diabetes. Research has also shown that children who regularly play outdoors are also more likely to have better distance vision.

Calms the mind

It’s not just parents who get stressed! A survey by the American Psychological Association found a third of children aged 8 to 17 experienced symptoms of stress. Furthermore, anti-depressant use is on the rise amongst school-age children, as are diagnosed cases of ADHD. Nature is a proven aid to relaxation and has been shown to reduce stress levels within minutes, whether through being outdoors or simply looking at a tranquil vista. And ‘nature therapy’ is now a recognized form of treatment for ADHD children.

Promotes happines

Playing in nature is strongly linked to a child’s wellbeing. When kids are given the opportunity to explore a large open space, they develop a sense of freedom, independence and inner strength. They can think freely, design their own games and approach play in a fun, inventive way.

Challenges the brain

We typically think of computer games as stimulating, but they only provide a narrow focus to your child’s attention. Being outdoors activates all the senses – hearing, seeing, smelling and touching; it enriches the mind through a thoroughly engaging experience. And even if you’re only looking at images of nature scenes, these visually-rich stimuli are enough to nourish the brain.

What should YOU do?

If you have an outdoor space, make it inviting for your child. You don’t have to install permanent play equipment, just provide a bucket and spade, a hose, or chalks. Let them explore their space using their own imagination. If you don’t have a backyard, ensure you have images of nature freely available in your home. And don’t forget to devote family time to the great outdoors: visit local parks, wildlife refuges, go hiking or biking. Ensure time for nature is top of your family’s list!

Now a freelance writer, Jackie formerly worked in HR but took a career break when she became a mother. Writing gives her the freedom to be at home with her children, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local mental health charities

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