by Dr. Noelle DeVos, ND

I am proud to say I am on track with planting seedlings for my garden this year! Gardening is one of my absolute favourite summertime hobbies —  I can literally feel the day’s stress melt away and my body/mind relax when I garden.

Why am I talking about gardening? Because TIME IN NATURE is so crucial not only four our mental and physical wellness as adults, but especially for that of our children!

In my practice I see many children who struggle with poor attention/focus, depression, anxiety and other stress-related behaviours (ie. oppositional defiant disorder, tantrums, etc). As a naturopathic doctor, I am always thinking of ways to support my pediatric patients without always needing a “pill” and working to ensure I am addressing “the foundations” for wellness.

A lot of research has been done in the last few years on the effects of NATURE on health.

Many of us know the importance of going for walks and being outdoors, but do you know that time spent in nature in CHILDHOOD is linked to positive mental health outcomes in kids as ADULTS?

Studies have found that time spent in nature in childhood is associated with:

  • Improved mental health resilience as a adult
  • Reduced stress & anxiety
  • Lower rate of depression
  • Improved attention & focus (ADD/ADHD)
  • Promotes imagination & creativity
  • Improved short-term memory
  • Greater confidence

With spring around the corner and the sun starting to warm things up, this is the PERFECT time to plan ways to get your kids outdoors more this summer. It has been difficult for kids with school being online and lockdown restrictions in place over the winter. It is especially important to work on getting kids OFF of screens and prioritize “green time” outdoors.

Research has found that kids need a minimum of 1-2 hours of “nature play” and less than 1 hour of “screen time” daily.

The best way to get your kids wanting to go outdoors is to LEAD BY EXAMPLE! Here are a few simple ways to encourage your kids to get outdoors this spring:

  • Plant a garden
  • Have a bird bath or a bird feeder
  • Encourage kids to camp in the backyard
  • Make a “green hour” a new family tradition, giving children time for unstructured play in the natural world
  • Go on weekend hikes in the spring/summer
  • Build a treehouse with your kids
  • Raise butterflies

Nature and outdoor play is not only great for our kid’s mental wellness now, but especially for their emotional resilience as adults. Why not encourage our kids to be outdoors if it literally makes them smarter, happier and healthier?!