The Importance of Nature for Children

Today, most children prefer to sit in front of a screen over spending time outdoors, and many researchers and parents worry about the effect this has on child development. Being in nature offers children a wide variety of benefits, from physical to mental. I found two articles that explain nature's role in child development and why it’s necessary. Also included are nature activities that are not only fun for children but parents as well!

In an article from Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, Brooke Shoemaker explains that being in an unstructured environment provides children an opportunity to explore and learn through “question-asking, observation, experimentation, and reflection.” Children can run, jump, climb, balance, and perform in many activities outdoors, which helps develop different muscles depending on the action performed. Shoemaker says that outdoor spaces tend to be larger than indoor spaces, so children can move in ways they usually aren’t able to!

Nature offers opportunities for everyone to play outside! Since it is an unstructured environment, children are free to share, cooperate, and navigate peer conflicts. Shoemaker also explains that a direct exposure to living things in nature, such as trees and caterpillars, promotes empathy in children as they create positive associations and connections with the outdoors. It also helps children become more informed about how to care and interact with things in nature.

In “Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature,” journalist Danielle Cohen says that in nature, we practice ‘soft fascination,’ an effortless kind of attention that creates feelings of pleasure. This can alleviate stress and fatigue due to the attention required in daily life. The style of play used by kids outdoors promotes creativity and imagination. Cohen explains that children can think more freely, design activities, and see the world in inventive ways!

3 activities to get you and your child out into the fresh air:

  • STEM Earth Day Celebration - celebrate Earth Day with plastic bag weaving, farm to table planting, dirt pudding, painting with flowers and more!

  • Nature Navigators - explore the outdoors through crafts, stories, and fun lessons

  • Outdoor Courtyard - play hopscotch, play with the water tables, race up the spider web, and much more!

The benefits of being in nature for children are endless! Not only is it fun and relaxing, but it also alleviates stress, allows children to use their imagination, and develop mentally, physically, and emotionally. Since nature is worthwhile for everyone, you and your children can both enjoy the outdoors!


Lyndsey Watkins is a senior at UNCW. She is majoring in English with a concentration in professional writing and a minor in journalism.

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