Facts >> Nature Is
Good for Kids
Source: Hooked on Nature, www.hookedonnature.org.
Climbing trees is good for kids. Swimming in a lake
is good for kids. Collecting leaves and shells and rocks
is good for kids. Seeing deer and bears and foxes while
on camping trips is good for kids. Squirming with
delight as a banana slug crawls over their hand, and
then running to gross out their parents with
slime-hand-that's really good for kids.
know this. We've always known this. We take our kids to
the park when they're only a few months old, lay them
down in the grass. We smother them in sunblock and go to
unplug the television and extol the joys of fresh air,
despite the rolled eyes and thumbs itching for the video
game controller. We play catch with our kids in the
backyard, build them soccer goals out of stray pieces of
lumber, spend whole weekends hammering together go-carts
on the driveway. We watch them run and jump and holler,
we watch their skin darken in the sun, we watch them get
taller and stronger, and we can see easily that they
belong under a clear blue sky.
But while nature is undeniably beneficial to kids, the
extent and specific nature of these benefits are often
not fully understood. We figure, if they're outside,
they're getting exercise, and they're not glued to the
TV or computer screen, which can seem like reason
enough. But there's more to it than that.
There's an increasing amount of evidence supporting the
contention that attaching kids early and well to nature
is effective prevention in all areas. The natural world
serves as a restorative environment, outside experiences
calming a person both physically and mentally, replacing
substance abuse and violence as strategies to deal with
stress. With nature as part of a daily routine, kids
stay in better health, and when nature is brought into
the classroom as environmentally based education,
students perform better and more enthusiastically.
Coping skills come from the recognition of the
restorative powers of natural settings. There have been
numerous studies proving that being outside, even just
being within sight of the outside, is appreciably
calming and lowers stress. A kid who understands this,
whether on a subconscious level or not, is more likely
to take a walk when angry or confused, rather than
turning to mood-altering substances, violence, or any of
the bad way-finding that is so heartbreakingly prevalent
among our young. With the embrace of nature taking the
place of substance abuse, the interwoven epidemics of
crime and addiction in this country could sharply
Hoping skills, on the other hand, encompass the optimism
that arises from seeing "what appears to be the
impossible become the possible," as Congressman Cummings
put it. Close and continual contact with the
ever-renewing, ever-growing, and ever-profound natural
world instills in children a sense of unparalleled
wonder and potential, which is readily applicable to all
aspects of their lives.
Imagine a generation of kids growing up in this country
with a deep and abiding love of nature. Now imagine this
same generation becoming engineers, city planners,
scientists, legislators and leaders. A new kind of
possibility emerges, in the potential every child.
Though there are countless different ways to try and
keep kids on the right path, a key underlying factor in
all prevention strategies has been expressed perfectly
by California State Assemblyman Joe Simitian: "It's not
enough to tell kids to just say no. We have to give them
something they can say yes to."
saying yes to nature, kids find their place in the
universe. They gain the sense that they are unique as
individuals, and simultaneously the awareness that they
are a part of a whole, that they belong in this world
and to this world.
With these as their core beliefs, tucked deep in their
hearts, kids won't see the world as a scary place, they
won't see themselves as weak or vulnerable, and their
actions will reflect this kind of self-confidence.
It's a simple idea. It's one of those things we've
Giving teens a relationship
with nature can help them grow into optimistic, well adjusted,
caring adults. Research shows that contact with the natural world
powers, renewing us physically and mentally.