Adventuring In Nature For Happy, Healthy Children
Feel the sun on your skin, the wind in your hair, or breathe in the fresh scents of nature… There are few greater pleasures than time spent outdoors, but many young people are missing out by doing less of it than ever before. Spring is on the doorstep, and inspiring us to give you a multitude of reasons to gear up the kids for some exploration in the great outdoors!
A fantastic report released last summer from the University Of East Anglia created quite a buzz when they presented their discovery that exposure to green spaces offered significant and wide-ranging wellness benefits, including increases in mental health, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reduction in the risk of type II diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The notion that time spent outdoors is good for us is nothing new – I remember my mother shooing me outside for just that reason! However, science continues to validate our suspicion that being outdoors is crucial for our health. With a little planning, we can accommodate time in green spaces for our children, paving the way for them to become happy, healthy adults.
Some Scary Statistics
For our children, understanding the benefits of going for a good romp in the park has never been so important. Research from the National Trust found that the current generation of children are spending less than half as much time outdoors as their parents did, compounded by substantial volumes of screen time seen amongst the young. An Oxford University study found that children today are spending a whopping average of four hours and 45 minutes in front of a screen daily, while a 2017 study in the US found that children with a screen habit of more than five hours a day were 71% more likely to experience symptoms of depression. Luckily, time spent in nature offers a great boost to mental health, helping us keep our little ones balanced and healthy.
Benefits That Carry Into Adulthood
Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark put together a huge study looking at data from almost a million people over an eight-year period, in which they found that children who were raised surrounded by nature had a 55 per cent lower incidence of mental health issues as adults. Whether the children were gallivanting in the wilderness, in parks or in urban green spaces didn’t seem to matter, but having some form of contact with nature did! In addition to lasting mental health benefits, a study in Taiwan even suggested that spending time outdoors has a protective effect on the eyes of children, making them less likely to develop short-sightedness as they get older.
Join The Japanese in Shinrin-yoku
Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” is a popular health practice in Japan that calls for nothing more than walking, sitting or lying under the canopy of a living forest. The benefits are considered to be in part due to phytoncides, a chemical secreted by trees and plants that appear to trigger an increase in immunity. Other factors include exposure to a wider range of bacteria in the natural environment, stimulating our immune systems even more. Japanese studies found that Shinrin-yoku offered the added benefits of improved sleep quality, increased energy levels, decreased inflammation and increased focus, even in children with ADHD.
Room For Imagination To Grow
For previous generations, imagination was a bare necessity in the ongoing quest to defeat our evil nemesis, boredom! Fast forward to today and with an endless choice of games and content available online, children are using their imaginations less and less. Whatever the activity, time spent in nature shows time and time again; a stimulation in creativity, a boost to problem-solving capacity and offers increased opportunity for social development. Studies from Michigan University demonstrated that walking in nature also increased memory capacity. If there was a wonder drug that offered so many benefits, the world would be clamouring for it. Nature has so much to offer us, and is totally free from any unpleasant side effects!
Planning For Adventures
How can we translate this knowledge into time outdoors for our children? Simply persuading the kids to drop the screens and go outside can be a battle, but there are plenty of tactics we can employ to make nature more alluring!
If you have your own outdoor space, now is the perfect time to plan a mini-garden under the care of your kids. Growing fruits and vegetables can be a fun way to engage young minds with nature as they watch their hard work transform into something they can enjoy eating!
Invest in outdoor games
Outdoor games like cricket, boules and badminton can be a fantastic draw on a sunny afternoon.
Holidays in nature
Taking a holiday in a place of spectacular natural beauty is a great way to pull children out of themselves and foster health benefits and happy memories for all of the family.
The UK is filled with outdoor spaces that have been created especially to enchant young minds. From woodland trails to team building activities, there are so many options to explore. This can be a great pursuit for kids to enjoy with a Nanny who might struggle to get the kids outside even more than you do!
Between your own commitments and their extracurricular activities, it can be hard sometimes to allocate space for quality time with the children. A hectic week can be navigated by scheduling family walks together. This can be a perfect way for everyone to unwind and connect while ensuring that you and your kids get every opportunity to achieve that all-important sense of well-being.