“Go play outside! It’s good for you!”
Many parents today can recognize these sentiments from their own childhoods – the days of generations past when kids spent most of their time after school and during the summer exploring their backyards, neighborhoods and local parks.
But today, with electronic devices luring kids to stay inside and many schools cutting recess in favor of more classwork, time spent outdoors tends to be less frequent. Is it best for kids, though? A new study says it’s not.
Researchers at the University of Illinois recently reviewed hundreds of studies and found that there’s evidence nature makes kids smarter. More specifically, time spent in nature enhances kids’ development and academic achievement, Earth.com reports.
“We found strong evidence that time in nature has a rejuvenating effect on attention, relieves stress, boosts self-discipline, increases physical activity and fitness and promotes student self-motivation, enjoyment and engagement,” lead study author and professor Ming Kuo says in the article. “And all of these have been shown to improve learning.”
The benefits applied not only to kids’ learning in group settings in nature, but also to long-term personal success as far as skills like problem-solving, critical thinking and leadership. Even small doses of nature are beneficial, Kuo says in the report.
While parents can’t necessarily control how much learning their kids do in nature during the school day, they can definitely consider these tips for providing more nature exposure for their children overall.
1. Plant a vegetable garden
This is a positive way to get kids spending time outdoors tending to their garden – and also helps encourage them to eat their veggies.
2. Take kids on a nature scavenger hunt
Nature scavenger hunts are loads of fun for kids – and really educational. Check out these Pinterest ideas.
3. Encourage daily reading time to be outdoors
School-aged kids usually are expected to spend at least 20 minutes or more reading per day. Grab a book of your own and head outside with your child so you both can enjoy reading in nature.
4. Visit a nature center
If you haven’t visited one lately, you might be surprised just how interactive and enjoyable these local centers can be for kids. In the metro Detroit and Ann Arbor areas, there are plenty of family nature centers to choose from.