Enjoy nature and concentrate better
Can being in nature help children learn? A new study suggests it can.
Back in 2005, before the iphone had reached the market, Richard Louv wrote the book ‘Last Child in the Woods’. In it he argued that children were becoming increasingly distanced from nature, and that this was bad not only for their well-being, but also for the future of the planet. He reasoned children who don’t care about the environment are less likely to look after it as adults. Since the smartphone and social media boom that followed, there’s every possibility that our connection with nature is even weaker.
There have been several studies on nature and mental health, which back up the view that being outdoors, preferably in nature, is good for our minds and our bodies. And now research from Illinois, USA suggests being outdoors helps children pay more attention in lessons.
Studies on nine and ten year old school children found that teachers were able to teach their class for twice as long after the children had been in an outdoor lesson. Teachers and researchers had suspected that being outside might over-excite the children, and may it harder for them to settle down and focus on work back in the classroom.
In fact, the reverse was the case. Children were more engaged and needed far less refocusing back to the task in hand.
Researchers hope to carry out further studies, to see if the same effect is true in other schools and with different ages. If teaching outdoors before teaching inside does have beneficial effects on attention and engagement with learning, the researchers hope it will encourage schools to think about planning more outdoor learning time into their weekly timetables.
Have you found that being outside helps children focus on activities once they’re back inside? Here are our suggestions for incorporating the outdoors into everyday routines:
Walk or cycle to school, nursery or work
Even if you can’t manage the whole commute on foot or bike, try and get at least five minutes outside at the start of the day. Try it for yourself on the way to work too – see if there’s an effect on your ability to concentrate!
Get outside together everyday
Even if it’s only for five minutes to splash in puddles or walk to the local shop. Make it a part of the day, just like brushing teeth or bedtime stories.
Adopt a local nature spot
Making a regular visit (daily if you can manage it, or as frequently as you can if not) will help children build a connection with ‘their’ piece of nature and notice nature cycles. You could pledge to pick up any litter you see while you’re there, too.
A treasure hunt
Paint some pebbles and hide them in the garden or a local park for children to find. Or hiding chocolate coins is always popular! This is a game that never seems to get boring (even if you run out of new hiding places!).
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. What effect does being outdoors have on your children?
Reference to study: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180111115340.htm