Kids Who Play More Outdoors May be Less Likely to Have Problems with Peers

peer-problem Kids who spend more time outdoors seem to gain a boost in their peer relations, per a new report from Statistics Canada. In September, the agency released a report on outdoor time, physical activity and sedentary time and health indicators of Canadians aged 7 to 14.

Canadian guidelines suggest that kids between 5 and 17 years old get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day. Only 9 percent of children do. (The rule of thumb is if you’re able to carry on a conversation easily then you’re not working hard enough.)

Each additional hour spent outdoors was associated with:

  • 7 more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity.
  • 762 more steps.
  • 13 fewer minutes of sedentary time.

Additionally, children reporting more time outdoors were less likely to have peer relationship problems compared with those who spent less time outside, Mark Tremblay of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and his team said in Health Reports.

To read the full article, click here.

Young Children’s Preferences: What Stimulates Children’s Cognitive Play in Outdoor Preschools?

outdoor-play
Pinterest.com

A number of studies have identified childcare environments as significant resources for children’s development, learning through play, and contact with nature. However, there is a lack of knowledge about how, from a child’s perspective, specific outdoor physical environments in preschools stimulate children’s cognitive play.

Emphasizing on the value of listening to children, this study reports the perspectives of twenty-two 4- to 5-year-olds. The study context was an outdoor preschool with natural, mixed, and manufactured settings. A combination of photo preferences and semi-structured interviews was used to investigate children’s perception of preferred settings and cognitive plays.

The results identified that children mainly enjoyed functional and dramatic play. They mostly preferred mixed behavior settings that incorporated ranges of natural and manufactured elements. Compared to other settings, children found mixed settings provided the most opportunities for functional, constructive, dramatic, and game with rules play. The outcomes of this study have implications for the design of outdoor preschools, suggesting a balanced integration of nature with manufactured play features to enhance cognitive play experiences.

To read the full article, click here. 

 

Creating an Outdoor Classroom: Things to Consider

students-adults-working-to-create-outdoor-classroomStudents at Littlewood Elementary School in Gainesville, Florida are enjoying their new outdoor classroom, thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and a GreenWorks! grant from Project Learning Tree. The outdoor classroom includes seating for 24 students, as well as bird feeders, bird baths, and native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife.

The students were involved in many aspects of creating the outdoor classroom; from site planning and design, through installing bird feeders, planting native species, developing adopt-a-tree signs, and creating stepping stone mosaics.

Teachers are thrilled to have this outdoor space where students can be immersed in learning about nature. They observe bird behavior, calculate the dollar value of trees, measure plant growth, and collect data on seasonal changes.

To read the full article, click here.

How to Raise an Environmentalist

loc_environmentalistThis article discusses how we can encourage kids to care more and take action to protect our environment. Social science research indicates that motivating people to take action requires promoting compassionate concern for the world rather than just stating facts and making disastrous predictions about the future world. Research is suggesting that the desire to conserve is linked to our connection to nature – the degree to which we enjoy spending time in nature. Early exposure to nature increases the likelihood that people will care about the environment once they are adults.

While researchers are still trying to figure out why early exposure to nature increases environmental concern, they do know that emotional engagement is crucial in this process. Maintaining mindful behavior when going into a natural setting leads to a more connectedness with nature and the ability to empathize with the creatures and environment.  The first step in the right direction is to get more children outside, playing, and receiving all the benefits nature has to give.

To read the full article, click here.

Forest Bathing to Improve Health

loc_forestbathingFirst prescribed by Henry David Thoreau in 1854, eco-therapy is now scientifically proven to improve wellbeing. Forest bathing – basically just being in the presence of trees – is a type of eco-therapy that has proven to lower heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone production, and increase the immune system and general feelings of wellbeing. This method of relaxation and health practice is gaining popularity, and not a minute too soon.

A forest bath requires a person to just immerse themselves in nature and relax, instead of trying to accomplish anything. For 8 years, Japanese researchers studied the physiological and psychological effects of this method. They found a boost in the immune system of participants, due to an increase in natural killer cells. These cells provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and respond to tumor formation, and are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. These positive affects after a few hours in the forest can last for up to a month. These effects can be attributed to phytoncide found in plants and trees in the forests. Trees use this essential oil to protect themselves against bacteria and insects, and humans can use it for an improved immune system.

Nature also had physiological results on participants. They had greater activity in their parasympathetic nerves, which controls the body’s ability to rest and relax. The psychological benefits from forest bathing involved reduced hostility and depressive tendencies among the participants.

Due to the findings of this study, the Japanese government implemented 48 therapy trails throughout local forests. To read the full article, click here.

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children

barefootandbalToday’s kids have adopted sedentary lifestyles filled with television, video games, and computer screens. But more and more, studies show that children need “rough and tumble” outdoor play in order to develop their sensory, motor, and executive functions. Disturbingly, a lack of movement has been shown to lead to a number of health and cognitive difficulties, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), emotion regulation and sensory processing issues, and aggressiveness at school recess break. So, how can you ensure your child is fully engaging their body, mind, and all of their senses?  Using the same philosophy that lies at the heart of her popular TimberNook program—that nature is the ultimate sensory experience, and that psychological and physical health improves for children when they spend time outside on a regular basis—author Angela Hanscom offers several strategies to help your child thrive, even if you live in an urban environment. With this book, you’ll discover little things you can do anytime, anywhere to help your kids achieve the movement they need to be happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

For more information visit: http://www.timbernook.com/balanced-and-barefoot-book

 

Can Urban Forest Settings Positively Influence Children with Autism?

In late July, autism_greenspaceUSDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the four recipients of the 2016 USDA Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grants. One of the recipients, Georgia State University (GSU) and several partners, will investigate the impact of natural environments such as urban and community forests on symptom expression in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Brian Barger, research assistant professor at GSU, is principal investigator for the grant, with collaborators from other universities, nongovernmental agencies, and the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS). Cassandra Johnson Gaither, project leader of the SRS Integrating Human and Natural Systems unit based in Athens, Georgia, and Annie Hermansen-Baez, SRS science delivery and Kids in the Wood coordinator in the same unit, will provide their expertise in assessment and science delivery.

“Research results showing the positive effects of managed natural environments such as urban parks and forests on human general and mental health have grown exponentially over the last decade,” said Barger. “Yet no studies to date have explored the effects of these environments on the expression of core and associated symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders.”

To read the full article in SRS’s CompassLive, click here.

Health Benefits of Nature

benefits_of_natureSpending time in nature can benefit humans in more ways than one. Researchers are building a body of evidence that proves that nature can greatly improve our short and long term mental and physical health.

For example, children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD can increase their concentration with as little as a 20 minute walk in a natural setting.  Adults with depression can decrease their symptoms of depression with a short period of time in nature. These are just two of the many benefits nature can have for our health.

To see the hundreds of research studies, news articles, and case studies about the benefits of nature for children and adults, click here.

 

Texas Wildlife & Woodland Expo and Spring Fling

expo save the date 2016

The 2nd Annual Texas Wildlife and Woodland Expo & Spring Fling will take place on April 2nd, 2016, at The Lone Star College- Montgomery. This free event provides youth and adults a chance to get outdoors and learn about the natural environment. It will feature many family friendly activities including arts and crafts, rock climbing, and archery, as well as many informational classes and demonstrations for all ages. Also, all of the booths will provide a hands-on activity for children. There are also many opportunities for girl scouts and boy scouts to work towards their patches and badges.

Expo and Spring Fling is a joint event hosted by the Texas Forest Service and Lone Star College- Montgomery, in cooperation with many other partners. The event aims to raise awareness of environmental issues and wildfire prevention, and encourage families to get outside and reconnect with nature. Participants are able to meet various environmental, educational and outdoor-related groups, non-profit organizations, businesses and government agencies.

This year’s topics include: attracting pollinators, gardening, healthy forests, attracting wildlife to your area, rain water harvesting, and much more!

Booth spaces are complimentary for approved applicants. Visit the website to register, or contact Jordan Herrin at 936-259-5688, jherrin@tfs.tamu.edu.

When: Saturday, April 2, 2016, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Lone Star College-Montgomery 3200 College Park Drive Conroe and The Woodlands, Texas 77384.

For more information, visit the Expo website http://expo.tamu.edu/

 

Stanford Study Measures the Health Benefits of Nature Walks

bridgeA growing body of evidence supports the idea that spending time in nature has positive impacts on human physical and mental health. As a result, scientists are beginning to conduct research that addresses the more specific questions of just exactly how nature is beneficial and they are providing quantifiable results.

In a recent study by Stanford, researchers were able to pinpoint a neural response that resulted from time spent in nature. Study participants walked in either a high-traffic urban setting or in a natural area for 90 minutes. Participants that walked in natural areas showed a decrease in activity in the region of the brain associated with a key factor causing depression. This suggests that making time for nature outings might be helpful in addressing a range of mental health disorders, particularly for those living in city settings.

To read the full article click here.