I just stumbled across this article, “Going outside—even in the cold—improves memory, attention,” that the TKF Foundation posted on their Facebook page, which is so timely given a conversation I had this morning.
I was talking with a friend about the importance of outdoor play for children (well, for all of us, but this conversation was about kids). We live in New York in the Hudson Valley, where it gets cold in the winter. It has been getting cold here in the winter for a long time (and I’m talking geological time), and yet last week, his son’s school barred students from going out during recess because “it was too cold.” It was 30 degrees out. Um, hello-o, that’s barely above freezing. People upstate, like in Buffalo, not to mention North Dakota, would just laugh.
A couple of months ago, another parent told me that her son’s school was using recess – or the withholding of it – as punishment. Misbehave and you don’t get to go out at lunchtime. This is like trying to put out a big fire by giving it more oxygen. Kids need exercise. They need to blow off steam. They need unstructured play. They need to socialize outside of the classroom.
This is, sadly, a common problem, which is why the Children & Nature Network and lots of other wonderful organizations have sprung up in recent years (for a partial list, see the Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s Get Out and Play! page). Access to nature – for play, for fresh air and exercise, for a sense of wonder, for growing the next generation of stewards – is critical, and we need to keep fighting for it. So here’s some ammunition for our fight:
“The Case of Elementary School Recess“ by the U.S. Affiliate of the International Play Association.
Several studies by Frances Kuo and Andrea Faber Taylor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Landscape and Human Health Lab have proven the benefits of “doses” of nature for kids, including those with ADHD. For a good summary, click on this link: http://lhhl.illinois.edu/adhd.htm, and also “Children with ADHD Benefit from Time Outdoors Enjoying Nature.” Here are the actual citations:
“Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings.” Andrea Faber Taylor, A., Frances Kuo, & W.C. Sullivan, (2001). Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 54-77.