How much time does your kid spend in nature? New research suggests getting outside has some big benefits, especially for children who live in the city. Thestudyfinds city kids who have daily exposure to “green space” like woods, meadows and parks have better cognitive development and a lower risk of emotional and behavioral problems.
Researchers studied more than 35-hundred kids between ages nine and 15 in London over four years to look at the link between natural environments and cognitive development, mental health and overall well-being. They also looked at their exposure to “blue space,” including lakes, rivers and the ocean, calculating their exposure based on how close the kids’ homes and schools are to green and blue spaces. And getting more time in the woodlands was associated with higher scores for cognitive development and a 17% lower risk of emotional and behavioral problems two years later, even after adjusting for variables like age, ethnic background and parents’ occupation.
But the same link wasn’t seen with the exposure to blue space and there were limitations to the study, including that researchers assumed that living or going to school near natural environments meant more exposure to them, which isn't always the case. And while study authors established a link between woodlands and better cognitive development and mental health, what they don’t know is why nature exposure brings these benefits.