Need another reason to tell your kids to play outside? The University of British Columbia (UBC) just published a study that discovered that people who played outside as children are more likely to care about the environment.
What Happens When Kids Play Outside
Assistant professor Catherine Broom headed up the study. She surveyed 50 college students between the ages of 18 to 25. During the survey, these participants selected various options to describe their experience in nature as children. Furthermore, they defined their present views of, and actions towards, the environment. The study concluded:
The findings illustrated connections between childhood experiences in nature and later views of, and actions towards, the environment.
The article concludes with recommendations based on the findings, outlining how positive attitudes and actions towards the environment may be fostered in childhood.
Specifically, Broom’s research showed that 87 percent of respondents who played outside as children expressed a continued love of nature. Of this 87 percent, 84 percent think that taking care of the environment is a priority. Broom stated:
Developing positive experiences in nature at a young age can influence our attitudes and behaviors towards nature as adults.
It is important to study these childhood experiences in order to develop environmental awareness and action in the next generation.
Our findings imply that providing positive childhood experiences in nature, such as outdoor school programs, may help to develop care for the environment in adults. However, these may not be sufficient unless programs are building knowledge and self-awareness of environmental stewardship.
There are many programs available for children, such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, that help foster the love of nature. Many grade schools are also involving children in environmental actions such as recycling and starting school gardens.
Brooms work was published in the Australian Journal of Environmental Education.
More Research Proves Outside Time is Highly Beneficial
Many other research efforts have shown that outside time is highly beneficial for human beings. Here are three other examples.
First is a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It found that spending time in nature decreases obsessive and negative thoughts by a significant margin. Furthermore, this research showed that time in nature reduces neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain governs mental illness.
Next, several schools in Texas are trying a new program which solves behavioral problems with more recess time. They are doing nothing more than allowing children to play outside more often during the school day.
You start putting 15 minutes of what I call ‘reboot’ into these kids every so often and… it gives the platform for them to be able to function at their best level. ~ Dr. Debbie Rhea, creator and director of the Liink Program
Finally, Spanish scientists investigated how contact with green spaces and beaches impacted indicators of behavioral development. Specifically, they examined the impact on symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The researchers concluded that being around the beach improves mental health. They also found that “green space playing time” significantly reduced emotional ADHD symptoms and peer relationship problems.
Many of us don’t need science to tell us outside time is beneficial. I find that a hike or a picnic in nature leaves me feeling calmer and happier. When my children spend time outside, they just act better. Hopefully, this research motivates you to encourage your children to play outside more often. In the end, even nature may benefit.
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