Solitary outdoor activities can help kids bond with nature

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Researchers say finding something young ones can connect with is key

Recent studies have found that spending time in nature can affect consumers in countless ways, such as reducing stress and prompting healthier eating choices

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from North Carolina State University suggests that it’s important for parents to find outdoor activities that their kids can connect with if they want them to enjoy nature.

“In order to create a strong bond with nature, you need to provide kids with an opportunity to be alone in nature, or to experience nature in a way that they can personally connect with it, but you need to reinforce that with social experiences either with peers or adults,” said researcher Kathryn Stevenson. 

Creating bonding time

To get a feel for how kids make the most of their time outdoors, the researchers conducted a survey of over 1,200 participants between the ages of nine and 12. They were most interested in understanding what parts of being outdoors are most enjoyable to kids and what kind of relationship they already have with nature. 

Overall, the researchers learned that kids were more likely to have strong relationships with nature when they had experience being outdoors, whether that was with others or by themselves. Participating in activities like camping or fishing were more likely to result in a more positive attitude about being in nature. 

These findings are important because spending time outside, and enjoying that time, can be incredibly beneficial for kids as they develop into adults. The researchers explained that enjoying time in nature provides easy access to physical activity while also boosting overall well-being.

“There are all kinds of benefits from building connections to nature and spending time outside,” said Stevenson. “One of the benefits we’re highlighting is that children who have a strong connection to nature are more likely to want to take care of the environment in the future.” 

Future environmental goals 

The researchers hope that these findings can help kids foster a deeper connection with the environment since it may encourage them to explore their environmental interests more deeply. Moving forward, the goal is to have more outlets for kids to spend time outdoors from both a leisure and educational standpoint. 

“When you think about recreation opportunities for kids, social activities are often covered; people are signing their kids up for sports, camp, and scouts,” said Stevenson. 

“Maybe we need more programming to allow children to be more contemplative in nature, or opportunities to establish a personal connection. That could be silent sits, or it could be activities where children are looking or observing on their own. It could mean sending kids to the outdoors to make observations on their own. It doesn’t mean that kids should be unsupervised, but adults could consider stepping back and letting kids explore on their own.” 

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