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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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Nature's Benefits for Children

The Benefits for Children and Young People

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to play, recreation and culture. Play is crucial for many aspects of children's development, from the acquisition of social skills, experimentation and the confrontation and resolution of emotional crises, to moral understanding, cognitive skills such as language and comprehension, and of course physical skills. But increasing urbanisation has left our children with far fewer opportunities than previous generations to play freely outdoors and experience the natural environment. Good-quality public spaces -- including well-designed school grounds --can help to fill this gap, providing children with opportunities for fun, exercise and learning.

The value for children with Attention Deficit Disorder

Children suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) benefit from activity in public spaces, especially green spaces. When parents of children with ADD were asked to nominate the activities that they had found made their children more manageable, 85 per cent of green-space activities (such as fishing and soccer) were said to improve the children's behaviour, while only 43 per cent of non-green activities (such as video games and watching television) were regarded as beneficial. Indeed, 57 per cent of non-green activities were said to result in worse behaviour.

Challenging play space

Forest areas within the urban landscape can offer a stimulatingexternal environment in which to play resulting in healthier children more able to deal with managed risk. In Scandanavia, children aged around six were found to develop balance and co-ordination faster when playing in a forest than in a traditional playground. The challenges inherent in this kind of natural play space with its differences in topography and varying forms of vegetation and rocks and the children'sintuitive use of all they found around them were credited with this improved development. Moreover, an increase in the time these kindergarten pupils spent outdoors resulted in fewer absences because of sickness and an increase in both their motor fitness and their creativity in play.

Trees and grass are good for children

Spaces with trees and grass offer better play opportunities for children than places without such landscape elements. In inner-city Chicago, children were observed playing in areas surrounding apartment blocks; these play areas were similarly arranged but not all of them had trees and grass. Significantly higher levels of creative play were found in the green spaces than in the barren areas. Children playing in the green spaces also had more opportunity to be with adults, a factor that can aid the development of interpersonal skills.

Playtime is important

The school playground provides an important daily opportunity for children to play and socialise. Taking a break from the traditional classroom setting is now recognised to be vital for a variety of reasons. Whatever their age, children learn better and more quickly when breaks are included in the academic timetable. For younger children in particular, non-structured outdoor breaks are effective in helping cognitive development. Time in the playground also gives children the chance to develop social skills by interacting with their peers and making friends.


‘The Value of Parks. Testimony before the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. May 18 1993. 1

Petrie, P., Egharevba, I., Oliver, C. and Poland, G. (2000) Out of School Lives, Out of School Services. The Stationery Office.

Fjortoft, I. (2001) The natural environment as a playground for children: the impact of outdoor play activities in pre-primary school children. Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 29(2) pp111-117.

Taylor, A. F., Wiley, A., Kuo, F. E. and Sullivan, W. C. (1998) Growing up in the inner city green spaces as places to grow. Environment and Behaviour, Vol. 30(1), pp2-27.

Taylor, A. F., Kuo, F. E. and Sullivan, W. C. (2001) Coping with ADD the surprising connection to green play settings. Environment and Behaviour, Vol. 33(1), pp54-77.

Pellegrini, A. D. and Blatchford, P. (1993) Time for a break. The Psychologist, Vol. 63, pp51-67.

For more articles about NATURE & KIDS

Young Birders Get Serious About Birding Fun
The Squirrel Family 0 Backyard Nature Safari
Hamsters are rodents and cuddly pets
Kids Learning Links
Buddy's Diner (for the birds)
Bird Profiles for Young Naturalists