A growing body of research has found myriad positive impacts from frequent play in natural settings. These cover the entire range of holistic child development: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, creative and spiritual. For example:
Supports development in multiple domains: Connecting with nature helps your child develop socially, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. (Kellert, 2005).
Supports creativity and problem solving skills: Children who play outside have more active imaginations are are more likely to be able to solve a complex problem than peers who spend most of their time inside. (Kellert, 2005)
Enhances concentration and lessens ADD-like behaviors: Daily exposure to nature increases a child's ability to focus, enhances their cognitive ability, and significantly lessens symptoms of ADD in children as young as five (Kuo and Taylor, 2004).
Improves academic performance: Schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based education show significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math. (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
Improves social relations: When children are free to explore and engage in unstructured play outdoors (both by themselves and with others), they are smarter and better able to get along with others. (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005).
Reduces stress: Green plants and vegetation reduce stress among highly stressed children. Locations with greater number of plants, greener views, and access to natural play areas show more significant results (Wells and Evans, 2003).
Improves eyesight: More time spent outdoors is related to reduced rates of nearsightedness, also known as myopia, in children and adolescents (American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011).
These are just a few of the many benefits that research has found for children who play and engage in nature every day!
(Thanks to Grow, Bloom and Thrive in Millis, MA and to Crunchy Baby Farm for sharing these resources.)
Nature-based Education in the News:
Schools Beat Earlier Plagues With Outdoor Classes. We Should, Too (New York Times)
Why So Many Kids Can't Sit Still in School Today (Washington Post)
To Really Learn, Our Children Need the Power of Play (Wall Street Journal)