Wood's Homes Blog

Nature nurtures: Why getting outside is good for children and families

October 04, 2018
By Dr. Angelique Jenney, Wood's Homes Research Chair in Children's Mental Health
Nature nurtures: Why getting outside is good for children and families

Getting outside is good for kids. In fact, it’s good for everyone – children, adults and families together.

Science tells us that spending time outdoors – whether hiking in the mountains, losing ourselves in the reflections of crystal clear lakes, visiting local parks, or walking or biking community trails– helps both our bodies and brains. From better attention and concentration skills, to reduced stress and anxiety, increased creativity and enhanced moods, studies show that being outside helps our brains work better and improves our mental health.

There is also a healthy amount of literature that speaks to the benefits of outdoor therapeutic programming and wilderness experiences for kids.  At Wood’s Homes, our staff make sure to get kids outside on regular basis to bike, camp and play.

The bestselling book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder describes the importance of getting kids outside, and brings together a growing body of research that shows time spent in nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of kids and their parents.

I’ve been thinking about what ‘being outside’ teaches children. As kids explore the natural world and see trees, plants, birds and wildlife, they better understand and appreciate how to be respectful stewards of their environment. And, not to mention, unstructured playtime outdoors in nature is fun!

You don’t need expensive equipment (or even a car!) to get out and enjoy natural experiences in and around Calgary. There are an abundance of natural areas and  community-based programs – like those at the University of Calgary’s Outdoor Centre – that offer activities both in Calgary and beyond (imagine kayaking on the Bow, snowshoeing on a bright winter’s day or taking a bus trip to the mountains). There are also lots of great books like Take a Hike with Your Children, a great local guidebook featuring 46 family-friendly mountain hikes you can do with your kids.

I recently read a book, The Stranger in the Woods, about a man who left home at the age of 20 and lived without human contact in the woods for 27 years. Despite the attempts of journalists and documentarians to discover a bonafide mental health issue, there was never a clear diagnosis. One of the most important parts of this book is the review of the benefits of silence on the brain.  In our technological world today, how much silence do our children get exposed to?

Help your family learn healthy habits and get outside with your kids. Get back to nature. Unplug and recharge. Breathe deeply, relax, let go of your stress and enjoy connecting with the great outdoors and your kids. Your brains and bodies will thank you for it! As for winter being around the corner?  Well, there are lots of great reasons to go outside when it’s cold out too!