Regular park romps are likely to turn out well-behaved kids
Connection to nature lessens distress and behavioural problems, new research suggests
City slicker kids are likely to be less distressed, hyperactive or naughty if they frolic among the birds and the bees.
A study by the University of Hong Kong found that decreasing the nature deficit would be beneficial for children who are disconnected from the outdoors.
Lead researcher Dr Tanja Sobko found a tendency by parents to avoid nature because they perceived it to be dirty and dangerous.
Nearly 500 families with children aged between two and five took part in the study.
“The results revealed that parents who saw their child had a close connection with nature had less distress, less hyperactivity and fewer behavioural and emotional difficulties,” the researchers said.
In SA the situation is no different, with children often entertaining themselves indoors because of security reasons and the rise of technology.
Durban counselling psychologist Rakhi Beekrum said living in the age of technology meant that children were more connected to their devices than to nature.
“There are many advantages to children being more connected to nature,” said Beekrum.
These include being more physical when outdoors, and improving their posture.
“When they are more connected to nature ... they are less anxious as there isn’t the constant need to check notifications, continue a game and read messages.”
The result, Beekrum believes, is more relaxed children, both physically and mentally.
“In colour psychology, green promotes calmness, balance and harmony. So spending time in green spaces is beneficial to the mind.”
Beekrum added that children who are exposed to outdoor living are likely to become more aware of the environment.
“Connecting with nature promotes mindfulness (living in the present), due to the presence of various sensory stimuli. Mindful children are less stressed,” said Beekrum.
Johannesburg psychologist Dr Ingrid Artus concurred with the study.
“There are many scholarly articles that refer to the restorative benefits of nature. Exposure to nature in particular appear to assist restoration of the centres responsible for information processing and attention.
“It would appear as if interaction with nature assists the brain towards an alpha brain state, which is calm, relaxed focus.
“Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and attention deficit disorder are typically stuck in theta, which is a daydream brain frequency.
“Nature then seems to stimulate the brain with gentle information such as natural colours and other sensations such as bird or water sounds or the feeling of sand or grass under one’s feet,” said Artus.