Nature Helps Children with Attention Problems

Parents and teachers the world over will tell you that getting children outside improves their ability to concentrate when come back inside. I can feel the need of my fifth and sixth grade students to get moving after 45 minutes to an hour of seated activity. They need to clear their minds, and get some blood flowing. Parents know that when their children are fighting with siblings, being loud and crazy, or just not following directions, it might be a good time to redirect them outdoors.

Now, new research is validating that hunch. A small study of students with attention problems, who took nature walks and then performed a memory and attention test had better results after walking in green and natural areas. This was reported in the New York Times blog, Well (a favorite of mine). This study adds to a small but growing number of studies that finds gains in attention of students who are involved in outdoor activities regularly. According to the article:

“What this particular study tells us is that the physical environment matters,” said Frances E. Kuo, director of the university’s Landscape and Human Health Laboratory. “We don’t know what it is about the park, exactly — the greenness or lack of buildings — that seems to improve attention.”

This validates the concepts shared in the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. His Nature Deficit Disorder might have more to it than anyone ever thought. As parents and educators, we should support schools in trying to build in more outdoor activities for all students, and should think about how we can create school environments that include green spaces and natural scenery.

Recently at our school, I was advocating for an outdoor classroom. Wouldn’t it be great if every school could have access to an outdoor classroom, green space, or nature trail? We would see improvements in students’ social, emotional and academic success as a result. And I don’t think I need a study to tell me that– but I think studies like this are helpful and validating to see.

What about you? Do you see better behavior and attention from your children after they have been outside?

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