Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Benefits of Being in Nature: The Kids Edition

We all know the benefits of decreased stress and increased happiness that nature has on adults (read about them here), but does it do anything special for kids? Absolutely! Encouraging children to spend time in nature can have a huge positive impact on their health and mental well-being.

It is widely known that nature can help you de-stress, but it also improves concentration. For children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), being in nature can reduce the attention fatigue that leads to an inability to pay attention or control impulses. According to the University of Minnesota, “Because humans find nature inherently interesting, we can naturally focus on what we are experiencing out in nature. This provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks” (Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing). Studies show that access to nature improves concentration, learning, creativity, cognitive development, cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness, while also increasing self-esteem and resilience (New Zealand Department of Conservation).

Not only does nature positively impact children’s mental well-being and their cognitive skills, but it also improves their physical health. Children without regular access to nature have an increased risk of obesity, behavioral problems, and irregular sleep habits. A lack of time in nature often signals an increase in screen exposure. Limiting screen time to two hours per day can help reduce violent tendencies, improve academic performance, and promote creativity (University of Minnesota).

Enjoying quality time in nature is beneficial for children’s health both physically and mentally. In addition to these positive outcomes, this time can lead to a love of nature and promote responsible environmental stewardship later in life. It encourages a sense of wonder and exploration for children of all ages, and serves to improve social interaction, while also developing closer relationships and a value for community (National Wildlife Federation).

Looking for ways to get your kids in nature? Encouraging them to play outdoor sports, read books by the window, and exploring local environmental education programs are easy ways to get involved. Check out the three Nature Nooks (Fantasy Forest, Symphony of Sounds, and Little Kid, Big World) along the trails to help kids engage with nature in different ways. If you are looking for a way to blend storytelling and nature, a recent volunteer wrote an inspiring article about the Storybook Hiking Trail that can be found here.

If you want to bond with your kids while engaging them in nature, join Beaver Creek at the Keeping Kids Entertained on the Trail program from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on May 20th. With interactive games and post-hike activities, what's not to love about this event?

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