Children need an hour of nature time each day, says Wildlife Trusts

kid in a leaf pile
CC BY-SA 2.0 iberianexplorer

The UK organization wants schools to incorporate that time into their daily curriculum.

Children should spend at least one hour playing and spending time in nature each day, according to the Wildlife Trusts. The UK-based conservation organization represents 46 local groups and 2,300 nature reserves, and it is now calling on the British government to incorporate nature time into the daily school curriculum.

The request is based on a study, which was published earlier this month for the Wildlife Trusts by University College London. Its 451 participants were 8 or 9 years of age, and they were interviewed before and after participating in nature-based activities run by the Wildlife Trusts over the course of several weeks, such as identifying plants and trees and learning about wildlife habitats.

The children demonstrated a remarkable increase in personal wellbeing and health and a sense of connection with the natural world and demonstrated high levels of enjoyment. Ninety percent said they learned something new about the natural world; 79 percent felt the experience would help their schoolwork; 81 percent said they had better relationships with their teachers. Perhaps most importantly, 79 percent cited greater self-confidence and 84 percent "felt that they were capable of doing new things when they tried." In a world where resilience is lacking, those are rare and special statements.

Director of strategy for the Wildlife Trusts, Nigel Doar, said in a statement:

"This research shows that children experience profound and diverse benefits through regular contact with nature. Contact with the wild improves children’s wellbeing, motivation and confidence. The data also highlights how children’s experiences in and around the natural world led to better relationships with their teachers and class-mates."

Parents on their own aren't managing to give kids that time, and it has been decreasing significantly in recent years. A 2011 survey found that less than one in 10 British kids has access to natural areas, compared to 40 percent of adults when they were younger. The Guardian wrote, "Only half of children said their school had an outdoor nature area, 37 percent had never seen a hedgehog, and most children surveyed had never found frog spawn in a pond."

Hence, the group's call for the government to free up a daily hour for nature time for kids. While the government's uptake seems unlikely – schools are hard-pressed as it is to squeeze everything into a single day – it would be lovely to see this made a priority. In the words of Professor Michael Reiss, of the Institute for Education, each generation has less contact with nature than the previous ones, and "we owe it to all young people to reverse this trend."

Learn more at Wildlife Trusts.

Children need an hour of nature time each day, says Wildlife Trusts
The UK organization wants schools to incorporate that time into their daily curriculum.

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