(This guest post is authored by Melissa Daruna of Get Outdoors Colorado)
As our kids head back inside for the fall and back to school, it is important to remember the benefits of outside play, specifically on their ability to focus in the classroom. Kids are spending less and less time outside and America is seeing a growing increase in childhood obesity and attention deficit disorders. Kids spend an average of 7 ½ hours “connected” to electronic media and only 4-7 minutes per day in unstructured play outside.
With more and more children being diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, parents are often seeking solutions to curb symptoms so kids can be successful in school. Many parents resort to the usual medications and classroom plans but research is showing that there are simpler, healthier ways to help kids keep their focus – nature. A recent study showed that short, 20-minute walks outside in nature helped alleviate symptoms of ADD/ADHD, in kids who were both medicated and not medicated. Kids were able to return to tasks and focus for longer. Other studies and resources show that time spent in nature helped address the hyperactivity/impulsivity axis of ADHD. This, in turn, supported performance on objective tests for impulse control.
There are forums where parents are sharing similar stories of success using time outside to help their children have calm minds and focused attention. Many parents are using this technique in lieu of medication or on days when their child does not take medication.
While this is exciting news for parents of children with ADD/ADHD, it can also be key for parents whose children do not suffer from these disorders. The study done by the University of Illinois demonstrated that the increased focus benefit was apparent in children without a disorder as well. The calming nature of nature is helpful for kids across the board. So, get them outside and set them up for a successful year in the classroom!