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Children, Nature and Mental Health
September 1, 2020
Nature...reduces cognitive fatigue and stress and can be helpful with depression and anxiety.
-Irina Wen, Ph.D

In her article, “Children, Nature, and Mental Health,” (included in the Exchange Essentials article collection, “Emotional well-being”), Bobbie Rose writes:

The Secret Garden was written in 1911 by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is the story of how a boy who is sad, lonely, and sickly transforms into a strong, happy child full of joy and excitement. The change occurs when he is exposed to the natural world of trees, flowers, warm sunshine, sweet smells, and wild creatures. He moves out of his isolated, confined indoor existence and becomes a thriving, ­blossoming, happy child.

Of course, The Secret Garden is a work of fiction. But let's consider the message of this classic children's story. Can nature have such a profound effect on children's mental health? Does playing and learning in nature positively impact children's psychological and mental health?” The author answers her own questions in the affirmative and explains that one of the best things we can do for our children is ensure they have plenty of time in nature.

The book, Growing With Nature: Supporting Whole Child Learning in Outdoor Classrooms, describes the emotional, mental and physical benefits for children of even simple nature-based activities such as digging in soil:

“Outdoor classrooms designed with ample spaces that encourage sensory play help children make synaptic connections that support optimal brain development. Providing children with the freedom to dig, for example, allows them to experience the rich smells, textures and temperature variances of soil. This important sensory information will later serve as a link to new vocabulary words and science understandings. Digging also supports full-body muscle engagement, an important component of healthy physical [and emotional] development.”





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In our large collection of Exchange Essentials article collections, find resources on subjects such as administration, child development, curriculum, environments, family, and leadership.

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