Nature and the Developing Brain

Jin-A's outdoor playground is a breathtaking panoramic view of nature's landscape.  Part of Garret Mountain, our 3.5 acre campus offers an open grass field, a circular track, a playground, a labyrinth, a garden, a sandbox, and a pool all fenced in and surrounded by tall trees and cliffs in the background. 

At Jin-A Day Care Center we understand the vital role nature plays in early childhood development. Our outdoor space is thoughtfully created and designed to develop the whole child. 

"Want your kids to get into Harvard? Tell 'em to go outside!", said Richard Louv, the author of, Last Child in the Woods; Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. 

An increasing number of research and studies consistently stress the need for young children to experience and explore in nature for their mental, physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional, intellectual health and growth. 

Here are some of the proven, positive impacts that nature has on the different domains of development in the early years of childhood. 

  • Improves academic performance.(American Institutes for Research, 2005) 

  • Reduces Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD) symptoms. (Taylor et al. 2001) 

  • Enhances cognitive abilities. (Wells 2000, Taylor et al. 2002)

  • Improves awareness and observational skills. (Pyle 2000)

  • Supports creativity and problem solving. (Kellert 2005)

  • Advanced motor skills, including coordination, balance and agility. (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001)

  • Improves nutrition, more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. (Bell & Dyment, 2008, Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2006)

  • Improves eyesight. (American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011)

  • Improves immune system.

  • Improves social relations. (Bell & Dyment, 2006)

  • Improves self-discipline. (Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, 2001)

  • Improves self-esteem. (Malone & Tranter 2003)

  • Reduces stress. (Wells & Evans 2003)

  • Increases empathy. (Malone & Tranter 2003)

  • Instills a sense of peace and calmness. (Craine 2001)

  • Improves mood and overall well being.

  • Reduces or eliminates bullying. (Malone & Tranter 2003)

 Nature enhances curiosity and creativity to explore and experience life. At Jin-A Child Care Center during outdoor free play. 

Nature enhances curiosity and creativity to explore and experience life. At Jin-A Child Care Center during outdoor free play. 

"When a child is out in nature, all the senses get activated.  He is immersed in something bigger than himself, rather than focusing narrowly on one thing, such as a computer screen.  He's seeing, hearing, touching, even tasting.  Out in nature, a child's brain has the chance to rejuvenate, so the next time he has to focus and pay attention, perhaps in school, he'll do better." stated Richard Louv, in an interview with Editors of Scholastic's Parent & Child.

"Humans are hardwired to need nature because we are part of it." writes, Condie Ward in a NAEYC article on Connecting Young Children with Nature. Unfortunately, in our fast paced, modern day society, direct experience with the natural world is limited and increasingly becoming more scarce and in some cases obsolete.  

The good news is your family doesn't have to travel far to reap all the benefits nature is designed to offer.  As you can imagine, nature affects adults as well, in numerous positive ways. The next time you drive up the hill to drop your little one off at Jin-A Day Care Center, pause and take a moment to inhale slowly and deeply, while soaking up the natural view, and listen to the sounds of the forest.  Notice the birds chirping, capture the sound of the leaves waving through the wind, feel the breeze against your skin and allow yourself to refresh, restart and rejuvenate.  

Click on the following link for more articles on the importance of nature: 

Benefits of Connecting to Children with Nature

NAEYC article on Connecting Young Children with Nature

Why Kids Need Nature by Scholastic's Parent & Child

Abstracts from Studies on Childhood Development and Nature 

 

photo credit: Fabian Bromann bring it back to nature via photopin (license)