Taking that trek through the woods with your child may do more than build strong muscles.
New research suggests that time spent in nature is also good for their mental and emotional well-being.
"This research shows that children experience profound and diverse benefits through regular contact with nature. Contact with the wild improves children's well-being, motivation and confidence," said Nigel Doar, director of strategy at the Wildlife Trusts, the organisation in charge of nature reserves in the United Kingdom.
"The data also highlights how children's experiences in and around the natural world led to better relationships with their teachers and classmates," Doar said in a news release from the trust.
The study included more than 450 British elementary schoolchildren, mostly aged eight and nine, who took part in a series of Wildlife Trusts activities in 12 areas across England over several weeks.
The children completed surveys before and after they participated in the outdoor activities, which included learning about nature, its role in people's lives and the needs of wildlife habitats.
The Wildlife Trusts commissioned the study, which was conducted by researchers at the Institute of Education at University College London (UCL).
The joy of wildlife
The study found that 90% of children felt they learned something new about the natural world, while 79% felt that their experience could help their schoolwork.
After their outdoor activities, 84% felt that they were capable of doing new things when they tried; 79% said they felt more confident; 81% said they had better relationships with their teachers; and 79% said they had better relationships with their classmates.
"The Wildlife Trusts believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of wildlife in daily life, and we're calling on government to recognise the multiple benefits of nature for children and ensure that at least one hour per school day is spent outdoors learning and playing in wild places," said Doar.
"Each generation seems to have less contact with the outdoors than the preceding one. We owe it to all young people to reverse this trend – for their sake, for our sake and for nature's sake," said study co-author and UCL professor Michael Reiss.
The report was published in November by the UCL Institute of Education for the Wildlife Trusts.
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