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Researcher addresses nature’s benefits for children

An internationally recognized scholar spoke about the benefits of outdoor environments for children during a Feb. 21 presentation co-sponsored by the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools.

Andrea Faber Taylor, a researcher with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Landscape and Human Health Laboratory, presented “Nature Time: Evidence for Why Kids Need It, and How to Achieve It in a Fast-Paced World” at UNL’s Hardin Hall Auditorium.

Faber Taylor asserted that spending time in nature is essential for healthy development and day-to-day functioning. She referenced Attention Restoration Theory, which states that daily life demands “directed attention” that eventually saps concentration and causes mental fatigue. According to the theory, nature provides opportunities for “involuntary attention” – such as observing wildlife or watching clouds – that help restore the focus required by everyday life.

The presentation also outlined Faber Taylor’s own research, highlighting studies which suggest that time spent in nature improves children’s self-discipline, concentration and creativity. She further cited evidence that the outdoors can reduce the severity of symptoms in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Children gain more from spending time in “greener” environments such as parks than in neighborhoods or downtown areas, she said.

Faber Taylor closed by recommending that families place a greater priority on nature by exploring the outdoors together on regular basis. She also expressed hope that schools, daycare centers and communities ensure that children have regular access to natural environments.

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Faber Taylor’s presentation was co-sponsored by UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences; Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies; Environmental Studies Program; and Department of Psychology. It was hosted by the CEHS Children, Families, Schools, Communities and Nature Special Interest Group.