The outdoors is believed to be one of the most suitable and favourite places for children to indulge in free play and gross motor activity, due to the presence of trees and flowers, among other features. This type of setting is described as an enriched environment and is believed to have multiple functions by providing both a platform for play, as well as objects to interact and play with.
An enriched environment opens avenues for developmental benefits in older children including learning and memory; opportunities to accrue and display decision-making skills; and problem solving and creative thinking. Younger children can engage in imaginative play, which is considered a foundation of social and cognitive development. Many researchers believe that playing in outdoor settings at home, camps and schools has long-term benefits for physical, social, emotional and cognitive development in children.It is understood that key elements of child development are fostered through contact with nature such as:
• developing a sense of identity
• psychological resilience
• learning healthy behaviours.
Children who experience high levels of contact with nature are reported to have higher levels of self‑worth and higher cognitive function.*
An Australian investigation conducted in Melbourne primary schools identified principals’ and teachers’ perceptions of the benefits of nature-based activities in primary schools.15 Social and mental health
benefits were identified and related to:
• caring for living things which assists the development of empathy
• seeing the changes taking place in the cycle of life, such as growth and change which builds resilience
• improvements in neuro-behavioural disorders in children (e.g. ADD and ADHD)
• improved attitudes towards school and relationships with peers and adults
• greater calmness and reduced disruptive behaviour
• giving children a sense of freedom to be creative and make discoveries which enhanced their self‑esteem and self confidence
• increased perceptions of wellness and sense of achievement.
Teachers also gain the benefits of greentime with lower stress levels being proven when outside the classroom. Download this paper
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