10 Reasons Walking in the Woods Benefits Children


Walking in the woods have lots of benefits for children and adults alike. Forests are open (and we’re hoping they stay that way) and free to visit. With the UK entering its second lockdown, there’s no better time to spend more time in nature than now!

A study by the National Trust highlighted that today’s children may be suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ because they don’t spend enough time outdoors.

One of the UK’s leading commentators on childhood, Tim Gill, explained the significance of spending time in a natural environment:

“Natural places are singularly engaging, stimulating, life-enhancing environments where children can reach new depths of understanding about themselves, their abilities and their relationship with the world around them.”

Here are 10 reasons walking in the woods benefits children.

1.      It makes them healthier

Many studies were done to explore the health benefits of walks in the forest. They found that being in nature may reduce blood pressure, help maintain a healthy weight and may even boost immunity.

2.      It makes them happier

A London study showed that people who live near trees may experience less depression. Another study found that green environments improve mood and self-esteem (both of which are very important for children’s happiness), and that spending time near a lake, river or ocean enhances these positive effects even more.

3.      It boost creativity

Children are more creative when exposed to nature; they can use all their senses rather than just sight and sound; they can use their imaginations. Children in nature-based playgrounds engage in more creative play than children in traditional asphalt/structure-based playgrounds.

4.      It boost social skills

Children who spend more time in nature have more friendships that are based upon inventiveness and resourcefulness rather than physical prowess. A report by the RSPB showed that a positive self-image, confidence, and the ability to face new challenges – all of which are skills children can develop in nature – help children connect with others and develop their social skills.

5.      It helps reduce stress and anxiety

Exercising or even just sitting in forests reduces blood pressure and decreases levels of cortisol and adrenalin, the body’s stress hormones. It also puts the body into a relaxed state by increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity. Even looking at photos or drawings of trees has a positive effect.

6.      It increases their attentiveness

By spending time in nature, children will learn to pay attention to the seasons, how they change and the wildlife in our forests. It also help them realise why forests and all its inhabitants are important which can help bring up eco-conscious adults who protect nature.

In the words of David Attenborough:

“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”

7.      It improves their learning abilities

A report by the RSPB highlighted that practice of learning outside the classroom – ranging from the use of school grounds to residential fieldwork brings about an educational benefit to children. They report a change in the children’s understanding, feeling and attitudes due to the outdoor natural space providing additional opportunities for critical thinking, creative inquiry and problem-solving.

8.      It breaks their routine

A lovely dose of nature is a brilliant way to break the normal routine during the school week. Taking growing explorers to the nearest forest after school instead of after-school activities or the local playground can help them relax during the week and enjoy their freedom outdoors without obligations or rules.

9.      They can enjoy natural play with no boundaries or rules

Child-led play is extremely important for little ones. This is the time when they can decide without anyone leading them what they want to do and how they want to learn. The great outdoors is the perfect place for this; they can follow their curiosity and discover the world around them by using their senses.

10.  It teaches children to appreciate the wonders of the natural environment

How often do we take time to stop and be in awe of nature. The curves of a tree, the colours of the leaves or the beauty of a perfect sunset? By modelling our behaviour, parents can teach their children mindfulness and the appreciation of nature.

Forestry England has put together a handy guide where you can find your nearest forest and get coronavirus guidance so you and your growing explorers can safely spend time outdoors this season.