Author: Cindi Lou Grant
Feel like you’re always wiping faces, washing hands, and scrubbing stains? Your dirty kids might be on to something and all your dirty work may come with rewards further reaching than you may have ever known before.
As our communities become ever-more enclosed inside four walls; scientists are researching the effects that connecting with nature has on our health. This new research is confirming what we have long suspected; getting kids outside and in nature, decreases stress, streamlines focus, and increases creativity. Giving kid’s brains the rejuvenation they need to process and retain all they are learning.
David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah who specializes in attention is studying the effects of nature on our brains is finding exactly that. Nature works to our benefit, restoring depleted attention circuits in our brain. With restored circuits, we are more creative and focused because they are open and more able to process. His 2012 study found that backpackers on a 4 day trip solved creative problems 47 percent more efficiently than the control group. Even though many other factors like friendship and exercise may have also contributed to the result, we are finding consistency in many similar studies on nature’s effect on focus and creativity.
Strayer says, “When you use your cell phone to talk, text, shoot photos, or whatever else you can do with your cell phone, you’re tapping the prefrontal cortex and causing reductions in your cognitive resources. If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover,” says Strayer. “And that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving, and feelings of well-being.”
Nature studies on our brains are coming out all over the world and from of Stanford, Harvard, The University of Utah, and many others. In Japan, researches did a study that sent people on a walk through a nature setting and another group walking through an urban setting. Their study monitored the blood pressure and heart rate their many participants finding the nature group significantly lower. These researchers are even using portable EEGs (a device that monitors brain waves) to see what centers of the brain are triggered by being in nature and they all conclude, being outside is good for our brains!
Science aside, the skills, confidence, and problem solving that can kids can obtain from nature alone is enough reason to spend more time outside. But, what if your child would rather be inside? We have come up with the following motivators to nudge those kids out the door.
4 Tips for Parents:
1) Who are your child's buddies? Partnering with their parents to get them all outside could be the answer- Everyone agrees, more time outside is better. So why not partner up with like minded parents and get your kids together outside? Doing this regularly you may help foster the momentum needed to get their desire to be outside, their own.
2) Setting nature time aside- Creating nature time and making it a daily ritual could help ease the resistance. This addition to the routine, if prioritized right, will become so ingrained it will seem second nature. It’s the small daily habits that will build up lifetime health. The key here is consistency, by introducing this special nature time early and often a habit of being in nature can be built.
3) Go out with your kids- Your kids will do what you want to do, especially when they are young. Plan camping weekends in places far from cell service. Go to the lake or ocean, places where they have to put the gadgets down. For example, fishing, biking, skiing, or simply digging in the dirt all require the use of our hands, keeping the gadgets at bay and our kids enthralled with nature.
4) A Child’s best friend- If you don’t have a dog, it may seem like more work to add to adopt this furry family member and it’s true, having a dog is literally like adding a new member to the family. But having a dog and taking the dog out for daily walks might just be the key to making nature your child’s daily habit. Along with the daily drive to be outside, dogs can give kids real life experience with responsibility, empathy, and unconditional love.
As our world shifts to more time on screen and our kids are spending more time inside; finding restoration for all our minds can be as simple as a walk outside or as elaborate as a family vacation. Bottom line being, let your child get their hands in the dirt, their hair salty, and their tees grass stained!
Fostering that sense of wonderment that comes so organically in kids, is our mission at Sawyer and we hope they take these skills into a life full of exploring. Give it a try and when your done, let us know what your kids thought with the share button below.