Tag Archives: nature

New Meta-Analysis of Hundreds of Studies: Nature Boosts Children’s Learning in Eight Ways

nature boosts children learning

A large metastudy of hundreds of scientific studies has found what most parents and teachers already know — nature has a powerfully positive impact on children’s learning and on their emotional health.

“Report after report – from independent observers as well as participants themselves – indicate shifts in perseverance, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, and resilience,” the authors wrote.  “The evidence here is particularly strong, including experimental evidence; evidence across a wide range of samples and instructional approaches; outcomes such as standardized test scores and graduation rates; and evidence for specific explanatory mechanisms and active ingredients.”

The meta-analysis (a study that combined the results of many other studies) was published last month in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.  After combining all of the findings, the researchers found that nature helps children learn in eight different ways.

The eight key ways that nature helps children learn were:

Nature Rejuvenates Kids and Helps Them Focus

Studies showed that whether it was students going on field trips, Swedish preschoolers, children in Chicago public housing, or 5 to 18-year-olds with ADHD, nature had a rejuvenating effect on attention.  These findings were confirmed not just by parent and teacher ratings, but by neurocognitive tests.

Nature Relieves Stress

The studies showed that even seeing nature out the classroom window had a positive effect on kids, lowering their heart rates and leading to kids who reported lower stress levels.  Better yet were the kids who were able to learn in a forest setting once a week.  Those kids had lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels even beyond what could be attributed to the physical activity of being outdoors.

Contact With Nature Boosts Self-Discipline

Studies from Spain to inner city Chicago showed that kids who spent time in nature had better impulse control, including kids with ADHD and learning disabilities.  Contact with animals such as horses was found to also have a positive effect.

Student Motivation, Enjoyment, and Engagement Are Better in Natural Settings

Many of the studies found that students and teachers reported strikingly high levels of student engagement and motivation, not just in nature activities that kids had chosen to take part in but also in mandatory school activities in nature.  The researchers noted that learning in and around nature was associated with intrinsic motivation and not just extrinsic motivation (meaning kids were motivated to do things themselves and not doing them because they were forced to), which is important in keeping kids engaged and interested in learning.

“The positivity of learning in nature seem to ripple outward, as seen in learners’ engagement in subsequent, indoor lessons, ratings of course curriculum, materials, and resources and interest in school in general, as well as lower levels of chronic absenteeism,” the authors wrote.

The researchers also found that “learning in nature may improve motivation most in those students who are least motivated in traditional classrooms.”

Time Outdoors Is Tied to Higher Levels of Physical Activity and Fitness

Children’s time outdoors was linked to cardiorespiratory fitness, the type of fitness most clearly associated with better academic performances.  Studies also showed that kids who had access to nature stayed more active, even into adulthood.

Natural Settings Provide Calmer, Quieter, Safer Contexts for Learning

The researchers found that both formal and informal learning improved in nature.  When they were learning in a natural setting, kids were less likely to engage in disruptive behaviors like pushing each other or talking out of turn.  “Further, in greener learning environments, students who previously experienced difficulties in traditional classrooms are better able to remove themselves from conflicts and demonstrate better self-control,” the authors noted.

Natural Settings Foster Friendlier, More Cooperative Relations

Many of the studies showed that natural settings helped kids make friends and feel more trusting.  The researchers theorized that the kids were able to engage more with each other, and that they had a better spirit of cooperation not just with each other but with their teachers.  In addition, they reported that “learning in greener settings has been consistently tied to the bridging of both socio-cultural differences and interpersonal barriers (e.g., personality conflicts) that can interfere with group functioning in the classroom.”

Natural Settings Encourages “Loose Parts” Play, Independence and Healthier Forms of Play

The benefits of “loose parts” play (play involving small objects that kids can use to play and create in open-ended ways) are extended into nature, where kids have access to sticks, rocks, water, dirt and other natural materials.  Studies have shown that teachers and principals found that kids who engaged in loose parts play in nature had more physically active, social and creative play, which were likely to lead to improvements in social, emotional and academic development.

Some of the most interesting studies included:

  • One study of over 3,000 students found that kids who took part in a classroom garden learned more than those on the wait list.  The more garden time they had, the more they learned.
  • Several studies showed that having nature around schools led to better standardized test scores, even in schools with high poverty levels.
  • Many studies showed that time in “wilderness” led to kids developing better leadership skills, resilience, self-confidence, cooperation, perseverance, critical thinking and more.
  • Greener everyday environments seemed to buffer kids from stress and give them better coping skills.

The authors noted that even small doses of nature helped kids, like being able to see nature out their classroom windows.  Obviously, the more time they spent in nature, the better, though.  They wrote:

“Even small exposures to nature are beneficial. If you’re indoors, having a view of your yard as opposed to facing the wall, that makes a difference. At the same time, more is better. That’s one of the things that gives us more confidence that we’re seeing a real cause-and-effect relationship,” Kuo says. “The bigger the dose of nature we give a person, the bigger the effect we see in them.”

Looking for some inspiration to get your kids outside?  I’ve been publishing a free nature-based monthly magazine for kids and their grown ups this year — Wild Kids Magazine.  You and your kiddos can read it online or print it out. It’s a nonprofit project (just as this blog always has been), just to try to do my little bit to spread good stuff in the world.

wild kids collage

Want to help convince your school to incorporate more nature in its learning?  These organizations may be able to help.

Natural Start Alliance works to connect parents, teachers, day care providers and others who teach kids “with the tools they need to create great educational experiences that help young children explore the natural world, understand their environment, and build lifelong skills that will help keep them active and engaged in their communities.”

The Children & Nature Network encourages and supports the people and organizations working to reconnect every child in every community with nature. The network provides a critical link between researchers, individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being. C&NN also provides resources for sharing information, strategic initiatives and success stories.

I’ve also created a list of my favorite nature-based books for families (and those I can’t wait to read) on Goodreads, from The Wild Weather Book to How to Grow a School Garden.  Please add your favorites!

“Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.” 

–David Polis

Here’s to more nature goodness for all of us.

 

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Make a Daisy Chain or Flower Crown!

Do you know how to make a daisy chain or flower crown?  It’s incredibly easy and so fun!

There are several classic ways to make a flower crown:  the slit stem, braided, and woven.  Here are the simple instructions to do all three.

Method #1 — Split stem

dandelion-crown

  1. Trim flower stems to about 4 inches. Use a fingernail to make a small slit in the bottom half of each stem.
  2. Thread one stem through the slit in the next, creating a chain. Continue, adding flowers to reach desired length. To form a circle or crown, make a second slit in the stem of the first flower, and slip the last flower through it.

If you like visuals, here’s a quick video that shows the split stem method of making a daisy chain.

Method #2 — Braided

This method makes a more tightly knit flower crown or daisy chain, and is a bit more durable.  Simply braid three stems together for about an inch, and then add in more flowers to the braid.

how to make daisy chain crowns

Creative Green Living has a lovely step-by-step tutorial with lots of photos.

 

Method #3 — Woven

daisy chain

This is another easy way to make a flower crown.  Simply wrap one stem around the flower of the next, pull both stems to the side, and add another.  Wrap that stem around the first two, pull all three stems to the side, and continue.  As stems end, they will be woven into the line well enough to stay put.  To finish, wrap the last flower around the first flower and the end of the chain, forming a circle.

And here’s a short video that shows the woven method of making a flower crown.

Our Annalee (Rhiannon Lee, known these days as Rhia) also made a simple rose crown years ago and shared the instructions here on Magical Childhood.

rose crown

Have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Garden Potions!

potions

Here’s a sweet way to make a little magic in the back yard this summer.

My Alex had been having fun making “potions” with rain water, grass clippings and such, and he asked me to help him find new ingredients.  I decided to make it a little extra magical and went and got a pitcher of tap water and a can from the recycling.  I secretly dropped a few drops of green food coloring in the bottom of the can, and then made a show of filling the “empty” can with some grass clippings from the yard.

I gave him the pitcher and told him that I’d put magic grass in the can.  Then I had him pour some water into the can and pour the can into a bucket.  Of course, the water in the can instantly turned bright green when it mixed with the food coloring at the bottom, and Alex and Fiona watched in amazement as the magically green water poured into the bucket.  🙂

I also asked the kids to find 8 yellow dandelions for a second can (that I’d already secretly sprinkled with some yellow food coloring), and we used spent lilac blossoms for a third can that had some blue. 

I also gave them a jar of fairy dust (Florida sand from a vacation) to sprinkle in.

Lastly, I had them gather dandelion puffs so they could blow wishes into their concoctions.

I gave them lots of buckets to pour into, so they could also have fun with color mixing.

Alex is old enough that he easily figured the secret out, but he had fun pretending anyway.  Little Fiona just had fun gathering the ingredients and pouring and pouring.

They happily played for an hour with their potions.  It was an easy, nearly free, absolutely magical way to have some back yard fun.  We’ll definitely be doing more of it!

I also picked up an old spice rack with little glass bottles at a thrift store, and I’m going to assemble a whole magic potion rack for them to use sometime soon in their outdoor play kitchen.  I’ll try to post pictures and update how that goes!

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10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Happy Monday!

I hope all is wonderful in your little corner of the world.  Winter is holding on tight around here but we’re planting seeds and making plans anyway.  My spring fun Pinterest board is stocked with ideas I want to try with the kiddos.

Here’s a few ways to make a little magic this week…

1.  Tie long sticks to ribbons and go ribbon dancing in the back yard or park.

2.  Make grapevine wreaths and bracelets.  Click here for a tutorial from my Victoria a few years back.

3.  Mop the kitchen floor by letting the kids sock skate.  Or take it a step farther like this family did and make some sponge skates.  If you go for the mop hockey idea (which is brilliant, if you have a large enough floor and the bravery to say yes to such a thing!), I’d definitely recommend helmets though.  :)

4.  Cheer up your bill-paying.  Have the kids use crayons or colored pencils to draw a picture on the back of each bill as you mail it in, plus decorate the envelope and write something cheerful.  You might make someone else’s day magical as well.

5.  Make some seed bombs.  You can make these little guerilla gardening goodies with shredded paper or clay, plus a bit of dirt, compost and wildflower seeds.  Then have fun flinging them into unloved areas that could use a bit of color (including your own back yard!).  Be sure to use native wildflowers that will not be invasive and follow all those commonsense sort of rules.  🙂  Find tutorials at every(nothing)wonderful (with free printable labels!), The Ecologist (where you can learn the very old history of seed bombs and lots more), Mademoiselle Chaos (where you can make moldable little seed bomb shapes with recycled paper), or use this basic formula from BH&G:

Guerillagardening.org recipe: Combine two parts mixed flower seeds with three parts compost; stir in five parts powdered clay (available at art or crafts supply stores), and moisten with water. Form balls one inch in diameter; let dry for 24 to 48 hours (stash in an empty egg carton). Gather in paper and tie with raffia; add easy how-tos on a tag.

 

6.  Got any Harry Potter fans?  Make their day with homemade Butterbeer, complete with sugared rims on the glasses.  Now if I could only figure out how to make those tiny brooms….

7.  Start a weekly project of making homemade toys together.  These can be simple (like turning unwanted stuffed animals into puppets) or sophisticated (like making homemade dolls).  Check out my Homemade Toys board for lots of tutorials and inspiration.

8.  Start some seeds.  You can start them in egg shells, egg cartons, newspaper pots, muffin tins or toilet paper tubes (cut in half) in recycled plastic boxes (the clamshell boxes from organic salad mixes are perfect) for mini-greenhouses.

9.  Do electric griddle drawings.  These are so much fun that even I have to take a few minutes to make some melty crayon art.  🙂  Click here for our tutorial and be sure to be safe.

10. Go puddle stomping!  You too.  🙂

And with that, my pretties, I’m off to start a nice pot of soup to try to kick this spring cold that thinks it’s going to get us down.

Have a magical week!

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10 Ways to Make Today Magical

(March nature calendar by J.A. Partridge in Natural Science Through the Seasons:  100 Teaching Units, 1946, via A Holy Experience. Click to enlarge)

Happy Monday!

I’m back from my blogging hiatus.  Daryl is recovering well from his hip replacement surgery.  It will still be some time before he’s fully mobile, but it’s all going great so far.

Here’s a few ways to make some memories with your kids this week.

1.  If you’re lucky enough to live in the right climate, go maple syrup tapping.  This is a can’t-miss experience for those of us who live near sugar maple trees this time of year.

 

 

2.  Use recycled newspaper to make plantable muffin tin pots for seedlings.  Visit Hands are full, Hearts are full for the wonderful tutorial.

3.  Make some whimsical finger puppets.  Check out das-wolkenschaf’s photostream for more wonderful inspiration (edit: it’s no longer online, unfortunately).

felt finger puppets

4.  Tape a length of string across the room as a net and play balloon volleyball inside. 

5.  Do some nature studies.  This is the perfect time of year for lots of spring nature fun.  Here’s ten ideas to get you started.

 

6.  Buy or make a blank book and start a family cookbook.  Make up a new recipe for it each week together.  Some good simple dishes include smoothies, soups and jazzed up grilled sandwiches.  Encourage the kids to think up really fabulous names for each recipe.

7.  Make a painter’s tape maze and then have the kids dribble or kick a ball through it.

tapemaze

(Original source unknown)

8.  Make a sticky spider web.  Hands on as we Grow came up with this wonderful activity where you make a painter’s tape spiderweb and throw newspaper balls at it and try to make them stick. 

Visit http://handsonaswegrow.com/halloween-activity-a-sticky-spider-web/ for more information and to pin this idea.

9.  Make some hand puppets from old stuffed animalsSimply cut a slit in the back or cut the legs off an old stuffed animal, remove most of the stuffing (or all), and let kids start putting on some shows.  🙂

puppet

 

10. Let the kids play with their food! Give them an assortment of fruit pieces and let them go nuts.  This idea is courtesy of my son, Jack.  He and his little brother even set up a store and made everybody fake money so we could all buy the ones we liked!  Look at the lovely creations my boys made this morning.  🙂

 

And with that, my pretties, I’m off to tackle the next 99 things on my to-do list.  Have a wonderful week!

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A Little Playful Inspiration

Have you visited the blog Let the Children Play I find myself frequently pinning Jenny’s lovely posts because they are so wonderful for simple, magical, child-led fun.

Here’s a few examples that have inspired me for our lazy days at home…

“This sunny day we set out a couple of shallow boxes and containers filled with sand, along with a basket of goodies to create little worlds.”

series: how to create an irresistible outdoor playspace for children

“Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom.  Just feast your eyes on some of the wonderful images of Reggio Emilia inspired preschools I have found lately…”

A space of comfort and privacy:
 

A space of beauty and wonder:
 
I subscribe to Let the Children Play by email, and it’s lovely to have these simple and whimsical ideas dropped into my inbox each morning.  I highly recommend going over and taking a peek.  Click on Popular Posts to see some of the viewer favorites, but don’t stop there.  Click on related pages at the end of each blog post and you’re likely to find more than you can possibly keep up with to inspire you.  🙂
Happy Thursday!

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10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Happy Monday!

Here’s a few ways to make some memories with your kiddos this week….

1.  Have the kids play dress up in their most fanciful clothes and then go on an evening walk around the neighborhood.

2.  Start a snail habitat.  Magical Mama Jen shared this sweet idea years ago for the Magical Childhood newsletter…

I have always loved snails, and while out with Sage a month or so ago, we were looking at snails and how they have 2 sets of antennae, etc…and I thought…why not bring them IN?  Soooo….I searched on the internet to see what snails need to be able ot survive indoors.  All you need is a large container with air holes (of course, lol)  In the bottom, place about an inch of gravel…then a couple inches of soil on top of that.  Place some “greenery” from outside in there…it will root and grow very well….also, give them a rock to play on, lol, and lean a stick in there…..a good idea is to place some moss on some of the soil to help retain moisture for them.  They eat fruit and veggie scraps…..ours love carrot and cucumber, but do NOT like cantaloupe or celery.  It’s been quite educational for us to have them…as well and fun…you can see their mouths open up, they have a row of teeth called a Radula that they rub on food to eat it..very neat to see their open mouths as they stick to the container.  :o)

You should mist their habitat every day or so, keeping their home moist, but not overly so.  Also…the chlorine in water is bad for them, so either leave a container of water open outside for a couple days to let the chlorine evaporate, or boil water for about 10 minutes. (lid off)

You should also clean out their home every week or so…and a tip that I saw on one web site was to put their food on a little piece of wood, or something to that effect, so once it starts to get a little “icky”, you can just take the wood out and rinse it off….much easier than digging around in there with your hands to remove the left overs.

Hope that helps some…if you need more info, try typing “snail habitat” in a search engine….

3.  Go for a walk in the rain with your child.  Umbrellas optional.

4.  Have a bubble relay outside– players blow or carry their bubbles from person to person and start over if they pop.  Alternately, blow a bubble and see if you can work as a team to blow it across a finish line.

5.  Help the kids make these pretty pens from strips of their art or favorite scrapbooking papers.  Chocolate on my Cranium has the super easy instructions.  These could also make sweet gifts for Father’s Day.

6.  Make up a miniature golf course in the backyard or living room.

7.  Throw a fairy party.

8.  Find a patch of clover and find four leaf clovers.  My kids find dozens.  To preserve them, press them between a small, folded piece of waxed paper in a heavy book.

9.  Find some whimsical stickers and help the kids scatter them around the house in half-secret places.  We once used a sheet of dragonfly rub-ons this way and it was so fun to happen upon them.  You can put them inside a dresser drawer or cabinet drawer, on baseboards or mirrors, anywhere.  Make sure they’re removable if you don’t want permanent whimsy!

10.  Make tissue paper resist prints.  The Frugal Family Fun Blog tells you how.

And with that, chickadees, I’m off to pretend to be productive before my doctor’s appointment.  Hopefully we’ll get an ultrasound date this time and we can try to find out a little more about our jumping bean!

Have a magical week!

 

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