Flower Power: Why Spending Time in Nature is Important for Learning

Date
Category
Family Time, Learning Tips
Author
Mary Lonsdale
Spending time in nature is highly beneficial for learning.

If you’re in London this week, be prepared for flower fever! The famous Chelsea Flower Show will return to the capital between 21st and 25th May, bringing with it 150,000 visitors. And it’s no surprise that this event is so popular: research has shown that getting out into nature is a great stress reliever and mood enhancer, and is also important for cognitive functioning.

So, whether you plan to make a trip to Chelsea or simply fancy getting out into the local woods for a walk, we definitely recommend taking some time to appreciate nature in the next few weeks. In this blog, we’ll look at the reasons why spending time outdoors is important for young students, and suggest some things you can try as a family.

What Are the Benefits of Spending Time in Nature?

Our technology-oriented world is making it harder to motivate children to get outside. In his 2008 book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv recounts an exchange with a child who admitted they liked playing indoors better because ‘that’s where all the electrical outlets are’. However, there are numerous benefits to getting outdoors – from mental to physical health – and research has shown that children who are exposed to outdoor play from an early age are more likely to spend time in nature when they’re older (meaning that this healthy practice will continue into adulthood).

Here are some important reasons to encourage your kids to spend as much time outdoors as possible:

1. It can help with anxiety and attention disorders.

Studies have shown that nature actively reduces feelings of stress, depression and anxiety in children and helps create emotional resilience. In addition, leading psychologists (such as Steven and Rachel Kaplan) have postulated that exposure to nature can help improve focus and concentration.

2. It’s a fun way to stay active.

It goes without saying that simply going outside will remove the risk of children spending their days glued to the couch or to a screen – but why is this important? Obesity is a growing problem which can be mitigated by eating less and moving more, for one thing; and, moreover, evidence suggests that exercise can be helpful when managing disorders like ADHD.

Exploring nature also removes the structured idea of doing exercise for exercise’s sake: running, jumping, climbing, digging are all free-form, creative activities that will naturally require physical exertion (without the physical exertion being the end goal).

3. It boosts creativity and confidence.

As mentioned above, outdoor play is much less structured – meaning that the possibilities are almost endless. Allowing your child to decide how they interact with nature encourages them to use their imagination and boosts their confidence, as they’ll feel empowered to make their own choices.

Research has shown that spending time in green areas enhances problem solving and co-operative play, as well as improving test scores: meaning that encouraging children to spend time in nature could have a powerful impact on both social skills and academic performance.

4. It helps establish respect and responsibility for the world around them.

Spending time outdoors will help children develop a sense of awareness about their surroundings: in time, they’ll appreciate the value of living things. In turn, it will become apparent that living things require care and attention to flourish – if treated carelessly, they won’t survive. Trusting a child to look after a plant or to grow vegetables can be an effective exercise; they will soon learn what happens if they forget to water or feed it, or if they yank it out by the roots.

Establishing regular contact with the outside world will ensure that children develop a healthy appreciation and respect for the environment, which can be built upon for other areas of their life.

How to Encourage Your Child to Spend Time in Nature

There are lots of fun ways to spend time together as a family outside – and some great hobbies you can encourage your child to pick up by themselves, too. Here are a few things to try:

  1. Start an allotment. You could set aside a dedicated area in the garden in which to grow vegetables, and perhaps let your son or daughter tend their own patch.
  2. Go foraging. Picking wild herbs or fruits is a really fun way to spend time together, and is also a great introduction to different plants. Make sure you research carefully and avoid anything poisonous, though.
  3. Pitch a tent – even if it’s only in the back garden! Spending a night under the stars is a wonderful experience for children and gives them the chance to both commune with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of urban life.
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