Growing up with Green Space Improves a Child’s Mental Health
Research confirms that children who grow up near green spaces have reduced risks of developing psychiatric disorders later on in life, so get outside and get into the green.
A study out of Denmark found that the best outcomes for the reduction of psychiatric disorders were seen for children with access to nature closest to their home—a factor that remained true even after adjusting for socioeconomic status.
The researchers attribute their findings to the fact that children living in urban environments may experience more stressors (such as noisy traffic) and are not receiving the benefits of nature to help offset this exposure.
Some also believe that children may experience structural changes in the brain when enjoying play in nature.
The benefits of connecting to the natural world are numerous, immediate, and significant. Time spent in nature has been shown to reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), improve social interactions with peers, enhance memory, and reduce stress levels. It is associated with improved nutrition and provides opportunity for health-boosting physical activity. All of these factors certainly play a role in one’s mental health status, and are quite paramount to consider as approximately 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness (in the United States) each year.
This news is certainly not surprising to me, as I am sure it is not for many of you. After all, vitamin N (coined by Richard Louv) is essential.
This research strengthens my motivation to get my little ones outside on a daily basis and I decided to compile a list of fresh, fun activities for increasing our green space exposure this summer. I hope they resonate with and inspire some of you too.
- Get Planting: Luckily we have a vividly green yard bursting with a large variety of plants. Even so, we will continue to add to our collection. If you don’t have a lot of greenery around your home, consider how you can incorporate more for easy access to green space.
- Get Artistic. Make a mandala out of natural items. Create animal shapes out of leaves. Craft necklaces and crowns out of flowers and herbs. Paint with mud. Make spore prints with mushrooms.
- Get Playful: My son and I created a game where we each went on a hunt to retrieve the coolest item in nature we could find. We designated a meeting spot and shared our findings with one another. Scavenger hunts at the park are fun too.
- Get Going: Consider planning more play dates and excursions to gardens, farms, and forests this summer.
What ideas do you have?
Photo: ESB Professional/Shutterstock
Sheri Vettel is a Registered Dietitian living in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is a strong advocate of getting kiddos to eat their veggies and is owner of the small veggie-inspired t-shirt biz, Living on the Veg Tees. She discovered her passion for writing immediately after starting a blog for her son. Sheri enjoys hula hoop dancing, teaching yoga, traveling, and eating nutritiously delicious food. Find her on Instagram at @food.and.flow.mama.