Spring Break: Nature and the Developing Brain

“Go outside!”

“Go to the park!”

“Go to the pool!”

We have all been told these directives or said them ourselves. We know that being outside not only gives us space from our children but also offers them a greater sense of mental and physical health. 

We know the impact of sunshine on the body. We feel the difference in ourselves when we breathe in fresh air, see the blue of the sky, hear a bird’s spring song, or feel raindrops on our cheeks. We feel FREE!

Research has shown that children and youth benefit greatly from being outside, in all of nature’s elements. Outdoor play improves development of advanced motor skills and overall general health, kids report feeling more alive after being outside, and they seem more likely to behave and show improved executive function after coming in from outside. They seem satiated. The more we can get our kids outside, the better.

This health benefit isn’t just in our bodies—it’s also in our minds. Being in nature contributes to emotional development, allowing us to self-reflect and process emotion. A recent study showed that activity in the amygdala, the area of the brain that constantly scans the environment for threats, decreased in participants following a one-hour walk in nature but remained the same after a one-hour walk in an urban environment, “showing that nature is indeed able to restore individuals from stress.”

The moral of the story? Calm the flight, fight, freeze, and faint responses in your children with the mere act of spending sixty minutes outside—being in nature.

Sources: Miracle Recreation. (n.d.). Why are playgrounds important? https://www.miracle-recreation.com/blog/why-are-playgrounds-important; and Sudimac, S., Sale, V. & Kühn, S. (2022). How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature. Molecular Psychiatry 27, 4446–4452. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-022-01720-6