10 Ways Outdoor Green Spaces Are So Important to Cognitive Development in Children
By Beth Rush
For young children, experiencing all kinds of environments makes a world of difference. It’s important to let them explore new places. If you’re wondering where to take them, try outdoor green spaces. Community playgrounds, urban gardens, and city parks are all amazing training grounds. Kids can shape their cognitive abilities and character in many different ways.
1. They Improve Visual Memory
It’s important to introduce new visuals and build up skills to recall them during early childhood. It’s a key skill that’s used throughout school and life. Luckily, outdoor greenery can assist with that.
One study finds that residential green spaces improve visual recognition and working memory in children. Kids provide more correct identification responses in a spatial span test after going to those green spaces. Even when incorrect, kids had a 4% lower probability of error after that trial.
2. They Encourage Speech Use
Outdoor green spaces are a place for parents to bond with their children. Kids can also meet new playmates they can talk to. They are much more likely to use speech and pick up communication skills throughout these interactions.
Ideally, there would be more outdoor spaces to build up these communities. However, around 69% of parents in lower-income neighborhoods shared that there’s no play space near their home. If you find a place near yours, take the opportunity and bring your kids over.
3. They Improve Mood
Green spaces are known to relieve stress in children, giving kids a natural ‘lift’. Outdoor green spaces enhance mood and increase self-esteem, among other health benefits they provide, such as reduced anxiety.
Being outdoors can improve a child’s attitude, and promote a sense of well-being. Getting outside is an easy way to put a smile on a child’s face!
4. They Offer New Environments
Children who typically stay indoors may struggle with feelings of loneliness. Being disconnected from others can cause cognitive decline, as the pandemic showed. Social interactions in outdoor green spaces can help remove the pains of isolation.
There are also all kinds of new auditory and visual stimuli in an outdoor green space. Having that avenue for exploration can be a fun activity that hones their physical and cognitive well-being.
5. They Promote Reasoning
Inductive reasoning is a cognitive skill that involves concluding their observations. Luckily, so much can happen in an outdoor green space. Different groups mingle with one another, pets roam around, and plants will be growing everywhere.
From here, your kids might draw different conclusions from their observations. For example, they see someone watering a flower. After a few days, they noticed the petals blooming. From that, they can infer that water is good for growing plants.
6. They Boost Imagination
Do you ever remember roleplaying with some childhood friends in a park? The trees become base camps for different people. Sticks become swords. Nature is such a good tool for boosting imagination in children.
Imaginative thinking is excellent for your creativity and overall cognitive development. Many also note that having these different fantasies can also enable children to become more critical thinkers in the long run. They become more perceptive on what is reality and what isn’t.
7. They Improve Focus
Focus is integral to your cognitive development, especially for children with hyperactive behavior. Being forgetful or unable to concentrate can make it hard to go through school in the future.
Certain outdoor activities can help with improving focus. For example, a study finds that children are faster when completing tasks that require more attention after a walk downtown. There are also outdoor games like jumping rope and Simon Says that help hone focus.
8. They Make Processing Natural
A big part of cognitive development is being able to process what you see as fast as possible. For many kids, it takes a few variables to make your thought process quicker and more natural. For example, it takes time to become more adept at information processing.
Environments also play a big part in processing. Children have better visual information processing speed when exposed to green spaces. Upon recognizing a certain object or image, they can process the patterns and understand it better.
9. They Spark Different Events
After an eventful day outdoors, try to ask your kid to share some of the events that happened. There’s a high chance that they have a lot of stories to share about the whole ordeal, whether it’s a play session with a friend or an argument with another kid.
Ask follow-up questions, such as how today made them feel or what they did in that situation. You can also ask them why they think those events happened. Letting them recount their day can build up critical thinking and foster emotional intelligence.
10. They Offer a Calming Space
Outdoor spaces offer a variety of colors, whether it’s the blue water fountains or a yellow playground slide. But apart from all that, the greenery in nature is exceptionally calming. This hue can create quite a calming space that puts kids in the right mood to learn and develop.
In addition to being soothing, there are also other psychological benefits behind the color. For instance, green can improve reading speed and comprehension in children. As it’s the ultimate cognitive exercise, bring a book to the park and have a reading session together.
Bring Kids to Green Spaces
Letting your children go outdoors is paramount to further your cognitive development. Hold their hand as they explore and learn. You can also answer their questions to satiate their curiosity and share new information that they will treasure.
About the Author: Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind. She has more than five years of experience writing and editing articles covering topics like sustainable transit and the importance of green spaces in urban planning. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth!