Every Child Outdoors – Children need nature. Nature needs children.
Over the last decade, a large amount of research has been carried out into the diverse benefits for children of contact with nature and outdoor experiences. These benefits include positive impacts on education, physical health, emotional wellbeing and personal and social skills, including the development of responsible citizens.
This summary report draws together the main findings and recommendations from this rich evidence. As well as academic research from a number of countries, the research includes official reports from national schools inspectorates, which reflects the increasing recognition of the role that learning outside the classroom plays in enabling children to experience nature.
Some of the key conclusions are:
EDUCATION – “First-hand experiences… can help to make subjects more vivid and interesting for pupils and enhance their understanding… [and] could make an important contribution to pupils’ future economic wellbeing and to preparing them for the next stage
of their lives.” (Ofsted, 2008)
HEALTH AND WELLBEING – “Children increase their physical activity levels when outdoors and are attracted to nature… All children with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder] may benefit from more time in contact with nature…” (Bird, 2007)
PERSONAL AND SOCIAL SKILLS – “Experience of the outdoors and wild adventure space has the potential to confer a wide range of benefits on young people…Development of a positive self-image, confidence in one’s abilities and experience of dealing with uncertainty can be important in helping young people face the wider world and develop enhanced social skills.” (Ward Thompson et al, 2006)
The findings are presented according to the separate areas of benefit shown above, but there is a great deal of overlap between these areas and the benefits reinforce and catalyse each other. This not only highlights the extent of the positive impacts on children and young people that contact with nature can have, but also the broader effects these impacts have on schools, communities and society.
A list of the key research and books discussed is included at the end of the report to provide a starting point from which you can find out more information. Our full Every Child Outdoors research report is available from www.rspb.org.uk/childrenneednature