Do Outdoor Experiences Help Shape Children’s Brains?

by Melissa Harding

The Children and Nature Network, an online movement to reconnect children to nature, has published another great article by Richard Louv. Louv, most famously known for his prolific naturalist books and essays, is also the co-founder and president of the Children and Nature Network. His article, Nature’s Neurons, asks the question: Do early experiences in the natural world help shape the architecture of young brains? Louv declares that it is time for science to answer this question; he calls on scientists to  further explore this topic and create a better understanding of how nature impacts brain plasticity.

“A growing body of primarily correlative evidence suggests that, even in the densest urban neighborhoods, negative stress, obesity and other health problems are reduced and psychological and physical health improved when children and adults experience more nature in their everyday lives. These studies suggest that nearby nature can also stimulate learning abilities and reduce the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and we know that therapies using gardening or animal companions do improve psychological health. We also know that parks with the richest biodiversity appear to have a positive impact on psychological well-being and social bonding among humans.” – Richard Louv

Louv argues that although we do not know for certain the impact of nature on brain plasticity, it could have a profound effect on reducing stress toxicity. This, in turn, allows young brains to develop more soundly. On the reverse side, Louv asks, does a disconnection from nature cause stress? Hopefully, we will soon find out.

If this debate interests you further, Louv cites some great sources for further reading at the bottom of his article.

The above photo was taken by Melissa Harding.

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