Scheduling in some time to go outdoors can help us to feel refreshed and put us in a clearer mindset, but for children it can also have some additional social benefits. Here, Sean Whiting, Director at Houghton Country, discusses how spending time outside and among wildlife can positively impact a child’s wellbeing.
As parents it’s important that we encourage our children to take a break from mobile and television screens and go outside for some fresh air. Not only can this help to give them a sharper mind, but research from the Wildlife Trust and the Institute of Education at UCL revealed children’s wellbeing increased in many areas after they’d spent time at one with nature.
And, it’s not just the fresh air that is capable of these positive effects. Seeing and interacting with wildlife can also boost child welfare further, so it’s important to get your little ones out and about. Here, I will be discussing the benefits that spending time outdoors can have for your child’s wellbeing.
It can enhance their education
Going outdoors with your child can help to develop their understanding of the world and how it works, especially if they take time after to do their own research into things. In fact, the same Wildlife Trust study found that after their outdoor activities, 90% of the children reported that they had learned something new about the natural world.
Similarly, a study by the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences found that nature has a positive effect on attention, promoting student self-motivation, enjoyment and engagement. In addition, nature can nurture students by providing a calmer, quieter and more creative space for work and play.
It can help to develop social interactions
It’s important that your child develops healthy communication and social skills from a young age and getting them immersed in nature can help with this. And, research published in Landscape and Urban Planning revealed that visiting blue spaces with fresh water has similar benefits to those in green spaces, with regards to social interaction.
To encourage better social interactions, it’s good to ask your children questions and to prompt them to ask their own. Doing so will make your child become more familiar with the flow of conversation, as well as helping them to develop a better understanding of nature itself.
It can improve their mental health
Developing a healthy mind is so important and getting outdoors to see and interact with nature and wildlife is a great way of clearing any bad thoughts and helping your child to see more clearly. This is further supported by the mental health benefits that pets can have such as a reduction in an anxiety and stress levels (Mental Health Foundation). Similarly, in a study published in Schizophrenia Research, showed that kids who had grown up around the lowest levels of vegetation and green space were found to have 30% higher risk of neurotic, stress-related and psychosomatic disorders, as well as mood disorders.
So, when taking your little one outdoors, be sure to encourage interaction with the wildlife around them. This can be something as simple as pointing any animals you see out on your travels together and taking a photo or writing down their names if you know them, so that your child can learn something about them when you’re back at home.
Additionally, talking about wildlife habitats and pointing these out, for example bird’s nests, can distract your child from any negative feelings they may be having, and help to boost their mood by talking about something else.
It can develop their self-confidence
Children need to feel confident in their capabilities from a young age to ensure they try their hand at new things and are always progressing. And, one way to inspire them to be comfortable with themselves is to immerse them in nature. Although it may not seem obvious, giving children an opportunity to explore and come up with their own conclusions and observations of what they see when they’re out and about, their self-confidence is being built up.
In fact, the Wildlife Trust’s study found that after doing the outdoor activities, 84% of the children felt they were capable of doing new things, while 79% reported feeling more confident in themselves.
It can help to pinpoint interests
Working out what you are and aren’t interested in certainly takes some trial and error and allowing your children to get to grips with nature can help with this. For example, while outside, they may find they’re not as interested in plants as they are in wildlife, or vice versa. And, as children are particularly inquisitive, it’s likely that they’ll spend more time exploring their new-found interest.
Plus, learning a lot about a certain topic can put them ahead of their peers and even help them to pinpoint a career they’d like to have along the way, so you can help them to take the right steps to get there in future.
Nature has a number of mental, physical and social benefits, all of which are particularly important for your child’s healthy development. So, make sure you take the time immerse them in the natural world from a young age to give them a good head start.