Time in Nature Helps Children Learn: We Are Here to Help

Image of a laptop with a timer to illustrate how much time children spend on computers.
The average American child, age 8 to 18, spends nearly eight hours per day, year-round, indoors looking at electronic screens. Photo via Canva

The lack of nature in our lives is detrimental to kids’ physical and emotional well being. We are here to help by making it easy for teachers to combine nature and learning.

Especially as many children have spent the last year participating in hybrid or at home learning, it seems children are spending more and more time screen time, and less and less nature time. 

In 2005, Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book “The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder.” The phrase was meant to describe the costs of our alienation from nature.

For example, according to a 2010 report the costs of an “indoor childhood” included increased child obesity, diabetes and asthma; reduced ability to relate to other children and adults; less realistic life expectations; inability to concentrate; more aggressive behavior; and a higher likelihood of personal isolation.

The consequences of an indoor childhood are drastic:

  • The average American child, spends nearly eight hours per day indoors looking at electronic screens.
  • Students need daily outdoor time as a counterbalance to the significant time spent indoors in front of electronic media.
  • Today’s children may have lifespans that are three to five years shorter than their parents’, due to their inactive indoor lifestyles.
  • Today’s children are less physically fit, less able to concentrate and are less able to relate to peers and adults than any previous generation of children.
Image of books on green grass to illustrate learning benefits of nature.
Research results are in: spending time in nature helps children learn. Photo via Canva

However, even during the pandemic, there is still good news:

Despite the move towards at home/on screen learning this last year, the 2021 Outdoor Participation Report (PDF will download)  highlighted that in 2020 nearly 34 million American children ages 6 to 17 participated in some sort of “outdoor outing”. These children embarked on an average of 77 outdoor outings per person per year. That’s a 1% increase over 2019, and a 2% increase over the three years prior. Biking, camping and fishing were the most popular outdoor activities for children ages 6 to 17. 

Clearly, many parents and educators already recognize that being outside and in nature is good for children’s health, but they may be worried about a trade off between “classtime” and “outside time” that will negatively impact academic success.  But there is good news! A growing body of evidence from around the world is demonstrating that Nature Helps Children Learn :

  • Spending time in nature, or even just having a view of nature helps children restore their attention.
  • Nature helps relieve children’s stress, and develop resiliency for coping when their lives do become more difficult.
  • Nature helps children develop more self-discipline – especially girls with ADHD.
  • Outdoor instruction makes students more engaged and interested.
  • Time outdoors may increase physical fitness.
  • Nature settings may promote social connection and creativity.

What can I do to change the indoor childhood trend and help my students benefit from spending time in nature?

Well, first you can keep educating yourself (and others!) on the importance of getting kids outside. And, you can find creative ways to bring learning outdoors!

Here are some great resources to get you started:

  • Contact your local government agency – start at the local and move up from there – as well as local non-profit organizations. Many of them will have resources appropriate for your particular area.
  • Here are two very easy activities you can do with children to get you started. We will be adding to our Resources Page continuously, so keep coming back.

We at Kites in the Classroom are proud that we have been able to help educators bring children, nature and learning together through our simple Kite Kits for over 29 years.

Image of child flying a Kites in the Classroom Kite Kit
Our Kite Kits are an easy and inviting way for children to spend time in nature.

What better way to spend time outdoors and interacting with nature than decorating, assembling and then flying your very own Kite? We have seen how children are inspired by this simple experience of learning in and about the natural world countless times. And best of all, our Kites fly in low wind and small spaces, so you don’t need access to huge fields to have a successful Kite Day.

Every Kite Kit order comes complete with everything you need to make your Kites (you provide the art supplies and children!) and a Kites in the Classroom Guidebook to help you plan a successful Kite Day or Activity.

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