Benefits of Playing and Learning in a Natural Environment


Nature-deficit disorder is the human cost of alienation from nature, according to author Richard Louv, who wrote Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Some of these costs are the diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and emotional illnesses. In contrast, some of the benefits he describes for children who play and learn in nature include

  • increased creativity
  • greater attention span for those with ADHD
  • greater physical and emotional health.

Nature in Your Own Backyard

When I was a kid, I went outside almost every day. My parents didn’t take me to nature parks, but I found a lot of things to explore in my backyard. We had a brick patio edged with wood planks. I would turn the wood over and find all sorts of creepy crawly critters digging and wiggling around. Next to the basement windows, we had two window wells. Toads would jump in there and get trapped, and I would rescue them. I was really excited the day I found a few baby toads in there.

We had different types of trees, and although I only knew the names for the maple and the oak, I got to see a variety of leaf shapes as well as different colors in the fall. Squirrels ran around, and a chipmunk lived under the steps leading up to the sun patio. I named all of these animals. I learned to recognize the calls of the robin, the mourning dove, and the crow.

In the fall, I discovered that Canada geese flew in a V-formation. In the winter, I saw which animals stuck around to brave the snow. In the spring, I learned which flowers pushed up through the earth first, and in the summer I caught lightning bugs. All of this happened in my parents’ yard. I had a chance to explore, to learn, and to feel joy as I connected with the natural environment.

Whether there are insects, birds, or trees, you also can most likely find nature right outside your home.

Play and Learn in Nature

Take your kids outside, explore your yard or a local park, do some gardening, and learn about the nature that you find. I’m sure you will experience as many benefits as your kids do.

Also, go to the homepage to learn about lesson plans that will guide you step-by-step in teaching your children about animals, plants, and the Earth. For most of the lesson plans, you and your child will develop a research project that takes place outside, so you can help your child gain the benefits of learning in a natural environment.

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