Research shows us that the more time kids spend in nature, the more likely they are to have a positive relationship with mental health as adults.
The study followed one million subjects over 28 years. They accounted for and controlled other factors that influence happiness, including socioeconomic status, education, and familial mental health. Yet even after factoring in those considerations, researchers still found a 55 percent lower rate of mental health issues in adults who grew up surrounded by nature. This is much more effective than what any pharmaceutical drug can do! Nature does indeed affect mental health in children and adults, so let’s take a look at how and why it does.
Nature has been shown to improve mental health by:
Reducing anxiety and depression
Bringing about faster recoveries for the sick and injured
Lowering stress levels
Playing outside also encourages sensory development, which is important for children of any age. Feeling the wind on their faces, experiencing the brightness and warmth of the sun, or getting muddy on a rainy day are all great ways for children to connect with their senses. Exploring the world through play also increases a child’s cognitive ability to problem-solve, interact with others, and learn new things. Adding regular time outside encourages all these wonderful developments in a child’s life and prepares him for adulthood.
So, what do children do outside? Here are some of our favorite childhood memories of playing in the great outdoors:
- Climbing trees (and having a loved one to help us get back down)
- Collecting interesting rocks: Rough, smooth, colorful, or extremely small, we were fascinated!
- Making jewelry out of wildflowers and grass
- The fresh smells of pine trees, grass, flowers, and rain
- Exploring new hiking trails
- Looking for wildlife
- Rolling down grassy hills
- Making mud pies
While planning specific outdoor activities for your children is an essential part of parenting, rest assured that letting them roam outside in their own way is also going to benefit them for years to come. And it doesn’t hurt you as the parent to be outside, either! Let’s get moving and playing today, because if not now, when?
What are some of your favorite childhood memories of playing outside? Let us know in the comments!