A remarkable study published in October 2021 in the journal Pediatrics has demonstrated how access to nature promotes mental wellness in children. A team of researchers collected and analyzed the results of nearly 300 studies that looked at the impact of green spaces on children’s welfare. They found a clear connection between regular access to nature and improved physical, psychological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral health. Notably, the effect was especially strong for children of color and low economic status who’d been denied such access in the past only to have it restored later on.
Based on what I’ve heard directly from parents, children, educators, and public health officials, I can confirm the accuracy of this mega-study. Black children and others from traditionally marginalized communities will truly blossom when given chances to enjoy natural environments and peaceful green spaces. Conversely, they suffer enormously when they remain trapped indoors for too long, or when the only “nature” they experience is stunted, neglected, or polluted.
In vast national parks and forests and in well-tended community parks, nature has an undeniable power to heal. Children belong in nature, they are its citizens and it is our responsibility as caretakers to make sure they are granted this critically important birthright.