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Time in Nature: Another Tool in the Parents’ Toolbox

As most parents know, getting a child to pay attention or get interested in a topic can be difficult. While there are lots of options out there on ways to help, there has been research that supports using time in nature and green spaces to achieve attention rejuvenation and aid issues of academic performance. 

In their paper, “Do Experiences with Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship”, Dr. Ming Kuo, Dr. Michael Barnes, and Dr. Catherine Jordan compiled and interpreted research from across the globe. Their opinion, based on the research, is that Nature-based Instruction has been shown to be more effective than Traditional Instruction. They claim that “students and teachers report strikingly high levels of student engagement and motivation, during both student-elected and school-mandated nature activities”1 and “encouragingly, learning in nature may improve motivation most in those students who are least motivated in traditional classrooms.”1 

Additionally, the benefits of nature time and green spaces can extend beyond the classroom. Research conducted by Dr. Andrea Faber Taylor from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana showed an increase in attention recovery rates in children and adolescents after taking a break from a task and walking in nature. They claim “a 20-minute walk through a park was as effective for children with ADHD as methylphenidate — a common stimulant medication used to treat the condition — to temporarily improve concentration”2. This means a walk in the woods or playing at your local park could be just what your child needs after school to tackle their homework or help with chores. 

So how could you utilize nature as a tool in your parental toolbox? It is really quite simple. Encourage playing outside after school rather than using video games as a means of destressing before homework. Take time to bring your children to a local park to encourage their free discovery of new interests. You could even find free local programs that offer nature-based instruction to give your child a leg up in developing interest in science and nature. And finally, encourage our communities to take nature seriously as a resource for learning and development. 

As stated by Doctors Kuo, Barnes, and Jordan, “It is time to bring nature and nature-based teaching into formal education – to expand existing, isolated efforts into increasingly mainstream practices.” 

  1. Kuo, M., Barnes, M., & Jordan, C. (2019). Do Experiences with Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 305.
  2. October 5, 2023; Lauren Quinn; CPSC EnvironmentFamily. (2023, October 5). College of agricultural, consumer and environmental sciences. ACES expert: Nature exposure can ease ADHD symptoms | College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences | UIUC.

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