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Kids need nature. Nature needs kids.

Regular time in nature can make kids healthier, happier, smarter and better stewards of the environment.

Unfortunately, the benefits of meaningful experiences in the outdoors do not accrue to everyone. They are highly dependent on a child’s zip code, upbringing, race, and their family’s financial resources. Because of this, there is an ever-widening gap between those who experience and benefit from the outdoors, and those who do not. Smart policy can change this dynamic.

The many benefits of meaningful experiences outdoors are well documented by a growing body of scientific evidence, curated by the Children & Nature Network and the North American Association for Environmental Education.

  • Children who play and learn outdoors are more active and physically fit, with decreased rates of obesity.
  • Playing outdoors promotes core strength, balance and agility, and the development of gross motor skills. 
  • Mothers who live in greener neighborhoods have healthier birth weight babies.
  • Time spent in bright sunlight is required for the development of healthy vision; myopia in children has risen 25% over the past 40 years and is directly linked to kids not spending time outdoors.
  • Studies investigating hte psychological benefits of outdoor learning find that just one hour per week can lead to significant improvements in children’s moods and long-term improvements in well-being.
  • Multiple studies show that spending time outdoors together strengthens family bonds. 
  • Spending time in nature positively contributes to children’s well-being, providing a respite from the stresses and anxieties of modern childhood.
  • Unstructured outdoor recreation provides opportunities to take risks, develop problem solving skills and build self esteem.
  • The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits.
  • Kids who participate in regular environmental education and outdoor learning opportunities have higher academic achievement.
  • Regular physical activity, which tends to be greater outdoors, improves brain function in children.
  • Kids who learn and play in natural environments have better performance in reading, math, science and social studies.
  • Children who have regular access to the outdoors have enhanced creativity and executive function, fewer behavior problems, and increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning.
  • A personal connection to nature in childhood carries over into adulthood.
  • Time spent outdoors during childhood, and role models who care for nature, are the two most influential factors that contribute to environmental stewardship in adults.

Explore the Research

North American Association for Environmental Education’s eeResearch

Comprehensive collection of research on environmental education and literacy.

Children & Nature Network’s Research Library

Comprehensive collection of research documenting the benefits of spending time in nature.

Policy Idea Library

Compilation of policy ideas to support, establish, and fund youth outdoor engagement.

Research Digest

Access Children & Nature Network’s monthly Research Digest, summarizing the most up to date research.


Health and Wellbeing

Nature Play

Academic Outcomes