Whether due to urban densification or the sedentary pace of life we lead, the truth is that several studies suggest that we are spending less and less time outdoors. But contact with nature has endless benefits, especially for children, so it is important to encourage it from an early age.
Today we tell you why playing and spending time in natural environments is good for children’s physical and mental health, as well as for their development and learning, and what activities we can do to encourage it.
Important physical and emotional benefits of growing up in contact with nature
We are becoming more and more connected to technology and more disconnected from nature. Our children are no strangers to this change of life and many of them suffer from what is known as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’, whose most obvious characteristic is an inadequate relationship between us and the environment.
Spanish pediatricians have been warning about this worrying situation for some time, and in 2017 they created Environmental Health Committee with the aim of offering guidelines to help improve the health of children and adolescents by relying on nature and the outdoors and steering them away from unhealthy habits.
According to pediatricians, being in contact with nature would provide children with the following benefits for their physical health:
- It helps to control obesity, whose figures in our country are beginning to be alarming.
- It improves the health of children and adolescents with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and asthma.
- It is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood and lower risk of myopia in childhood, according to a study.
- It helps to maintain correct levels of vitamin D, essential for the body to absorb calcium, favoring the correct growth of children.
- It improves the development of fine and gross psychomotor skills by running, jumping, climbing trees, picking things up with their hands or experiencing different textures.
But contact with nature not only has a positive impact on children’s physical health, but also on their emotional health and behavior, as has been determined by numerous studies to date. Some of these positive aspects are:
- It favors neurocognitive development and reduces behavioral problems in childhood and adolescence, improving self-control.
- It improves mental health during adulthood, reducing the risk of developing mental disorders by up to 55 percent, even in cases with associated risk factors.
- It helps reduce stress and anxiety levels in childhood and, in general, improves mood.
- Contact with nature makes children grow happier and more aware of the importance of caring for the planet.
It favors social relationships.
- Other studies suggest that napping outdoors would favor children’s rest, as they sleep more deeply and for longer, in addition to waking up with a better mood.
- In addition, contact with nature would help prevent addiction to alcohol and other drugs in adolescents.
It also improves children’s personal development and learning.
Outdoor play is not only essential for happiness and physical well-being during childhood, but also teaches children fundamental life skills and fosters personal growth and development.
Among other benefits, we highlight the following:
- Through observation and experimentation in nature, children develop critical thinking, logic or spatial orientation, among other skills.
- Contact with nature benefits the development of autonomy.
- Studies have determined that learning surrounded by natural environments improves learning, favors concentration and memory and has a positive impact on academic success.
- It favors free play, imagination and creativity.