With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, accessing nature isn’t easy for everyone. But adults can help children notice and connect with the natural world – whether that’s through being in nature or using the resources available to think and learn about nature.
Exposure to green space during childhood may have a protective effect on later mental health. Being in green space is also linked to improved wellbeing, cognitive development and academic performance, but it’s a complicated relationship: it might be refreshing for children and allow them to pay attention better in the short-term, but the long-term benefits for cognition are not clear.
Similarly, while there is promising research about the impact of forest school on children’s wellbeing, social skills, and attitudes towards the environment, the long-term outcomes on diverse samples of children is unknown. It’s also not clear why nature may have a positive impact – is it relief from loud noises, for example, or the increased agency that children can have outside?
Connecting with nature need not happen in nature. Adults can use activities and technologies to help children learn about ecology and climate change at school or at home. Could helping children pause and notice connections to nature improve their wellbeing, relationships, resilience, and agency?
This video is part of the animation ‘Learning to thrive’. The animation and related resources bring these ideas to life, providing a space to engage in thinking about how caregivers and educators might support young people to thrive. This is also a space for researchers and science journalists to share the latest evidence on the role of nature, play, creativity and agency in young people’s wellbeing.