How Nature Affects Child's Brain Development
Guest post by Hazel Bennett

When we think of healthy learning environments that allow homeschooled children to grow and thrive, our minds typically go to the classroom. More specifically, we think about traditional indoor classrooms. However, more and more evidence shows that nature and a child’s time spent in it significantly impact their brain development.

From fun, brain-stimulating activities that increase memory to much-need playtime and exercise, nature provides an array of important benefits. With some helpful advice, tips, and ingenuity, you too can think outside of the box (and the classroom) by taking your child’s lessons outdoors.

Why Go Outside?

You may be asking yourself, “Why take my child outside?” After all, most traditional curricula such as math, reading, and social studies are indoor activities. While all of the classic components taught in a classroom are vital to a child’s learning and development, introducing a young learner to nature and the outdoors has numerous benefits to their learning and brain development.

A recent study followed students who studied subjects like math, science, and writing through in-class instruction as well as field-based learning. The participants in that setting performed significantly higher and reported feeling more excited about school than children attending class in a typical setting.

When children feel more engaged with school and learning, they’re more likely to perform well. Since they’re up, moving, and taking part in the lesson plan, they’re less likely to get bored during their homeschooling. Spending time in nature also has a variety of other benefits for kids.

It gets them moving:

Encouraging physical activity while learning helps kids get the necessary exercise their growing bodies need. For instance, try going on a backyard scavenger hunt in search of different types of leaves or insects for a science lesson.

They spend time in the sun:

Taking the lesson plan outdoors also lets kids get much-needed exposure to the sun. Being outdoors in the sunlight allows their bodies to absorb Vitamin D, which helps with bone development.

Children get more sensory experiences:

Being out in nature gives kids the opportunity for exposure to an almost limitless number of sights, sounds, scents, and things to touch. These stimuli help with brain development and shape how they understand nature.

It holds their attention:

Research shows that spending time out in nature helps children concentrate. This can be as simple as taking a quick break for a walk between lessons or having lunch out in the yard on a sunny day. Spending time outdoors is also shown to benefit children who have ADHD.

Kids become more engaged:

Some research suggests that kids actually become more engaged and learn more during outdoor classes and activities. Additionally, kids may retain information better once they return to their standard homeschool classroom.

As several studies demonstrate, children who spend time in nature reap the rewards. Whether you want to teach certain lesson plans outdoors or give them a small break outside to recharge and refocus, time spent in nature is extremely beneficial to a child’s development.

What Outdoor Learning Activities Can I Do With My Child?

The home environment presents plenty of opportunities to get out in nature. Instead of being stuck in a typical classroom with two dozen other students, you and your child have the freedom to head to the backyard, local park, or nature trail whenever it suits your lesson plan.

As you plan out your weeks and days, you can ask yourself some key questions. Do you want this to be a lesson plan geared toward science, recognition, and memory? Or, do you want to have a day filled with physical activity and exercise? Here are a few ideas that you and your child can do to get out in nature:

  • Take a hike: Hiking offers a chance to get fresh air and exercise, both of which are vital to young, growing kids. You can take the opportunity to stop and discuss things that both of you see, such as different types of plants and animals, to add a learning component to it as well.
  • Plant a garden: Planting a garden with your child is a great way to teach them about plants and vegetables. They can learn about each type of flower or what vitamins and benefits different vegetables have. Encouraging your child to water and tend the garden with you can also teach them about responsibility.
  • Collect stones: Collecting different types of stones is a fun and interactive way for children to learn about geology. You can go out to your backyard or the park and see what you and your kids can find. After the lesson is over, they can display them on a shelf as a souvenir of their adventure.
  • Install a birdbath or birdhouse: Birdbaths and birdhouses are fun opportunities for children to learn about wildlife. Grab a bird species book and spend time with your child identifying the local fauna.
  • Build an outdoor fort: Gather up supplies and build an outdoor fort or treehouse. Your older child or teenager can learn how to assemble things and create a structure under your supervision. Not only is this a smart way to get them outside and learning, but you can use this new place as a special reward for doing well on a test or their homework.

When it comes to picking out activities that your child can do outdoors, be sure to tailor them to their likes and interests. Creating lesson plans that are fun and engaging will help them feel more interested in the subject and encourage them to learn even after their schooling hours are over.

Nature Has Many Benefits

As a parent, it’s natural to worry about your child’s development. Are they getting enough vitamins? Are they at the right reading level? Is my child getting enough exercise? Thankfully, by integrating the outdoors into their everyday lives and homeschooling sessions, you can help them get the many benefits of spending time in nature and put them on track to excel in school.

Hazel Bennett is a freelance writer and blogger. She has a degree in communications and lives in Northeastern Ohio. Hazel loves writing about numerous topics and showcasing her expertise with words.

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