There are so many benefits we get from spending time in nature.
It can help us deal with stress, fear and anger. Plus it’s great physical exercise.
And guess what – it’s not just for adults!
Many studies have shown that children who spend time in nature enjoy better mental, emotional and physical health.
Researchers at the University of Derby looked at the attitudes of participants in a 30-day nature challenge, by questioning them before, during and two months after the challenge:
…children exposed to the natural world showed increases in self-esteem. They also felt it taught them how to take risks, unleashed their creativity and gave them a chance to exercise, play, and discover. In some cases nature can significantly improve the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), providing a calming influence and helping them concentrate.
Here in New Zealand, our Department of Conservation says spending time in nature helps children in a number of ways:
- Increase self esteem and resilience against stress and adversity.
- Improve concentration, learning, creativity, cognitive development, cooperation, flexibility and self-awareness.
- Prevent childhood obesity.
DOC also notes that in an increasingly urbanised world — with television, computers, and extracurricular activities competing for time – fewer children have the opportunity to enjoy playing in nature, an issue echoed in other research:
‘Nature deprivation,’ a lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens, has been associated, unsurprisingly, with depression. More unexpected are studies by Weinstein and others that associate screen time with loss of empathy and lack of altruism. And the risks are even higher than depression and isolation. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, time in front of a screen was associated with a higher risk of death, and that was independent of physical activity!
– University of Minnesota
Taking a walk in nature is a great opportunity for families to spend time together, supporting and learning from each other as they take on new challenges.
Moreover, exposure to nature helps young people develop responsible long-term environmental behaviour:
A number of authors talk about the importance of the middle years (6 to 12 years old) for the development of the child’s relationship with the natural world. This is a time where the sense of wonder of early childhood is transformed to a sense of exploration. Research found that participation with nature before age 11 is particularly potent in shaping both environmental attitudes and behaviours in adulthood.
– Department of Conservation
Better health and better citizens – it seems obvious that children need to be spending time in nature at least as much as adults do.
If you’re planning to join us on one of our Waiheke walks, why not talk to us about including younger members of the family. Although our standard walks are about five hours long, we also offer personalised walks to suit the interests and abilities of each person.