Children and nature are one. They create bonds that are really worth cherishing as it has a really beneficial effect on the development of youngsters. There are plenty of advantages of children spending a lot of time exposed to wildlife. It is good for their mental and physical health, they are more creative and simply speaking happier. This has been recently confirmed by the findings of research conducted on Danish population, proving how important it is to grow up in green neighborhood.
Like it or not, we are all children of mother nature
Man has always been close to wildlife. Watching it enabled us to forecast the weather and survive. Knowing which plants are toxic or which animals could be deadly, enabled us to save our lives. We are born united with nature and only later, growing up, we drift farther and farther apart. And this is why children feel the bond much stronger, as everyday technology exposure has not damaged this link yet.
Many of us go to the countryside, grow their own vegetables and flowers. Some of us are more attracted to wildlife, others are not so keen. Still, it is natural that we all need to spend some time with our mother from time to time.
Children and nature – how growing up in a natural environment stimulated children’s development
Playing outside (irrespective of weather conditions) naturally strengthens kids’ immunity system, resulting in lower infection rate.
Moreover, nature can stimulate all senses at the same time. That has a very positive effect on appropriate physical and mental development of children. It improves their motor coordination, lengthens their attention span, teaches them cooperation and stimulates creativity and imagination.
Scientists working for the Illinois University have discovered that green spaces encourage children to play in a more creative way, improve the relations between children and adults and minimize the symptoms of attention span deficiency.
Whenever we are in touch with nature,
• the levels of oxytocin, dopamine and opioids rise
• the stress hormone level drops
• brain forms new neuron connections
• our cognitive, intellectual and performance functions develop
• the amount of stored information grows
A child that spends time exposed to nature is calmer and more relaxed. And that means it’s a happier child.
Research conducted by a team of scientist from the Aarhus University in Denmark, was carried out by means of analysis of satellite images recorded between 1985 and 2013, measuring the distances between green areas and 944,000 residential buildings in Denmark, inhabited by children under 10.
The conclusion was that kids growing up near more natural environment become happier and mentally healthier adults.
The scientists had also access to the database held by the Danish government. Using the Civil Registration System they collected information about social and economic status of the citizens in question, as well as their mental health. The information also included their residential addresses ever since they were born.
The next step was to compare the adult life parameters with the information about the subjects relating to their childhood years.
It turned out that the children who did not grow up close to nature were statistically 55% more likely to develop some mental disorders (irrespective of other known risk factors) as compared to those living on a similar social and economic level, yet living in less urbanized areas.
This could be explained by the exposure to noise and air pollution as well as other factors causing stress and at the same time lack of any places (and/or skills) to unwind in towns and cities.
It does not mean we have to move to the country. Sometimes a regular walk in the park will be absolutely enough
Moreover, our mental health is not so strictly dependent on living in a village or in the woods. To ensure appropriate child’s development you need to expose it on regular basis to such elements of natural landscape as parks or other green areas available in urban spaces. According to Kristine Enngemann, a member of the team of scientists, ‘(…) The positive effect of spending time in a natural environment is dependent on the length of the time period; the longer, the lower the risk of disorders and diseases in the future. (…)
Children and nature – a few words about spending time in a natural environment
Being outside itself is already beneficial for your health and the health of your family. However, the way we spend it also matters.
Of course you can do a variety of sports (which by all means is very important). Still, you need to remember that you also have to teach kids how to watch and listen. And it’s not about mindless staring at everything around us, but it’s all about learning how to notice things around us, like a flying butterfly, crawling worms or a squirrel running in the tree tops.
Nature is also about the sounds that we normally ignore. These include the rustle of leaves, the burble of the stream or the singing of birds. They are really stimulating for children and at the same time they are so relaxing.
So why don’t you find some time to spend it with your family so that the children are as close to nature as possible. Let it be a stroll in the park, a trip to a lake or the mountains or even some work in the garden. This is how you become an entertaining, yet a very responsible parent!