Connecting Children to Nature

Five Benefits from Connecting Children to Nature
By Richard Louv and Cheryl Charles


1. Green plants and play yards reduce children’s stress.
Grow part of your backyard so that your children can go outside, make forts and castles in trees and bushes, and invent imaginary places. If you don’t have a backyard, create a “wild box” with rocks, twigs, some sand and seashells, or other natural treasures. Natural landscapes don’t need to be large and grand. They can be a small and magical corner of a porch or deck in a city, suburb, or anywhere else. All you need are a few natural objects and for the child to have permission to play.
2. Free play in natural areas enhances children’s cognitive flexibility, problem-solving ability, creativity, self-esteem, and self-discipline.
Beyond your porch, deck, or backyard, find the places in your neighborhood where your children can play safely in areas that still have “loose parts.” While asphalt and manicured playgrounds are good for some things, children also need those places where things simply grow as nature had in mind.
3. Students score higher on standardized tests when natural environments are integral to schools’ curricula.
Beyond what you can do at home to create enticing, natural, safe places to explore, encourage your child’s school to make nature an integral part of the curriculum – from school yard habitat programs to field trips.
4. Effects of Attention Deficit Disorder are reduced when children with this disorder have regular and frequent access to the out-of-doors.
Outdoor projects are confidence-building and calming. Have tools – from shovels to hammers and nails, or seeds and hoses – around for projects small and large. Plant a garden, build a trail to prevent erosion, or get outside every day to look for birds and butterflies. Whatever you do – with your children or simply by letting your children have these experiences on their own – the results will be beneficial.
5. Children are smarter, more cooperative, happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.
Re-connecting children and nature is as easy as opening the door and going outside. Let your children have places to play that are safe, natural, and nearby. Encourage children to play together in the out-of-doors. They will learn to get along, will solve problems together, and will experience the natural benefits of growing outside.


Richard Louv is author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” and Cheryl Charles is president of the Children & Nature Network, which Louv chairs and where you can find more information about the benefits of nature experience and the movement to re-connect children to nature.