Nature Nurtures Naturally – Be Outdoors

Edwardྍ? October 14, 2014

We hear about global warming and natural catastrophes on the news. The biggest catastrophe of all is how little time we, especially our kids, spend in nature. Fortunately this is easier to fix than saving the rain forests.

So what is the problem? The problem is that getting outside regularly has huge benefits for all ages. Research shows that many of the benefits last a lifetime. Which means the sooner and more often we get a person outdoors the longer the benefits will help that person. It also means the benefits work no matter what your age. If you’re younger you get to enjoy them more. There is solid research behind each of these benefits. If you are inclined that way, read further on the ones that interest you. Science shows being outdoors on a regular basis.

  • Supports creativity
  • Boosts focus, self-discipline problem solving
  • Enhances cognitive abilities: awareness, reasoning and observational skills
  • Improves academic performance
  • Stimulates social interaction
  • Improves social relations
  • Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms
  • Improves eyesight
  • Increases physical activity
  • Improves nutrition
  • Diversifies imaginative and creative play
  • Fosters language and collaborative skills
  • Reduces or eliminates bullying
  • Instills a sense of peace and being at one with the world
  • Develops independence and autonomy
  • Improves standardized tests scores
  • Provides a sense of refuge and healing
  • Reduces stress and metal fatigue
  • Increases happiness
  • Reduces aggression
  • Improves self-discipline
  • Increases longevity, reduces mortality
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Reduces negative emotions (e.g., anger, fatigue and sadness)
  • Improves recovery from physical trauma
  • Promotes early literacy skills
  • Improves self-efficacy
  • Raises levels of Vitamin D
  • Nurtures a sense of shared community
  • Develops the courage to handle challenges
  • Brings an expanded view of aesthetics
  • Motivates learning and initiative
  • Empowers taking responsibility and measuring risk
  • Shapes environmental attitudes
  • Develops life-long conservation values

Obviously it’s hard to get outside- as much as we want. What can we do? Ideas include:

Bring the outdoors in. Create safe places to play outdoors. Encourage outdoor play – especially unstructured play. Play outdoors ourselves Support initiatives to provide and use green spaces in your neighborhood, at your schools, parks and city.

Put Plants in Your Spaces

Perhaps the easiest way to start getting some “vitamin G” is to have green plants in your home. Having plants in your home and work spaces helps you be healthy and alert.

  • “A study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Circencester, England, found that students demonstrate 70 percent greater attentiveness when they’re taught in rooms containing plants. In the same study, attendance was also higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants.”

Having plants is a great way to introduce life into your home. Think of plants like they are pets. In many ways better than a pet; when was the last time a dog improved the air quality of a house? Plants are alive. If you, the parent, are taking care of the plants you are modeling that you care about plants and the benefits they provide. You’re showing that you care about nature. You might encourage your children to be involved. Perhaps they would like to keep a plant in their room or help with the care of your family plants. Everyone benefits from having plants around. Might be a chance to encourage a direct involvement with another life form.

Create safe outdoor spaces

Safety is important. Unfortunately, the world seems a little scarier than it did a few years ago. The fact that young teens are on the web and on their phones has led to an increase in exploitation of this age group. Think chat rooms, and applications like SnapChat. This is technology driven. The outdoors is as safe as it has always been. Now when a child is reported missing practically anywhere in the world, you know it in an instant. The United States has the Amber Alert system. News is everywhere. A few years ago, news was not as pervasive. The point being that today we hear a lot more news, mostly bad, and some things seem worse when statistically they may not be.

In any case safety is important. You, parents, want to know your children are safe. Ideally you will have green space around your house where your children can safely play. (See Catching Bugs ). Safety considerations include overheating or frostbite, stings and bites, water dangers, sunburn, rashes and stranger safety. Don’t forget the benefits. Look back over the list of potential benefits and the safety issues won’t seem so daunting.

Encourage Outdoor PlayNicholas-1987-Oct

Get your kids outside. We love technology. Computers, tablets, smartphones, even TV have benefits of their own. Your kids will get their screen time. So TURN OFF THE TV computer, tablet, … and send them out into the cold cruel world. Get them outside where nature is.

It’s only dirt. Make sure your adventurers have clothes that are appropriate. Let them, heck expect them to get dirty. Figure out the right clothes to make it easier for them, and you, be in and enjoy the outdoors.

  • “[There are] cognitive benefits from play in nature, including creativity, problem-solving, focus and self-discipline. Social benefits include cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Emotional benefits include stress reduction, reduced aggression and increased happiness. Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.”  Hillary L. Burdette, M.D., M.S. -

Be outside yourself

Be in your safe green spaces yourself. Explore the backyard with them. Take them on a walk. Go to the park. Be interested in what you see: insects, mom-and-daughter-running-file5801272130943plants, birds, flowers, trees. When you are with them (1) you get the benefits of being in nature (2) you are their safety buddy (3) it’s one-on-one time with them.

Support Nature and Green Initiatives

People and groups are realizing the benefits of nature and natural environments. There is likely a group in your neighborhood, school district, or city that is working to establish and enhance green spaces. New parks are great. Especially if they are close to where you live. Smaller projects you can lead or do yourself can be effective.

Create a garden at your apartment complex or school. Raised garden technology makes it possible for gardens to be started practically anywhere. Gardens (see Gardening) are a great way to get outdoors and learning about life and applying their learning. Photosynthesis is real when you see it happening. Multiplication makes sense when you use it to understand how big your garden or plant boxes are. Ratios and percents are applied to what and where and how much gets planted. That’s just one idea. Look for opportunities to create or make a place safe for kids to play in nature.