Playing Outside Enhances Children’s Spirituality

playing outsideNew research suggests that a child’s spiritual connection with the environment is enhanced by playing outside for five to 10 hours per week.[1] In fact, Michigan State University researchers found that children who spend a significant amount of time outdoors have a stronger sense of self-fulfillment and purpose, compared to those who do not.1 Children who play outside feel a connection with the earth and understand that it is their role to protect it.1

“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being, ” said Dr. Gretel Van Wieren. “we were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, ‘Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?’ But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways.”1

For example, children in the study expressed feelings of peacefulness, and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them.1 Some also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature’s power—such as storms—while they also felt happy and a sense of belonging in the world.1

Researchers also measured the children’s aesthetic values, and they found that those who engage in free play outside on a regular basis have a deep appreciation for beauty, order, and wonder (balance, symmetry, color, curiosity, imagination, and creativity).1

It was also found that the parents of the children who expressed the highest affinity toward nature and the strongest spirituality spend significant amounts of time outdoors during their childhoods.1 Many of the parents believed that these experiences shaped their adult lives and spirituality.1

“[Nature] offers a diverse display of colors, sights, and sounds; uncertainty; multisensory qualities; and above all, aliveness,” said Van Wieren. “Nature is always in a state of flux, which fosters problem-solving opportunities that build self-confidence.”1

Van Wieren added, “But we could be in trouble if kids continue their technology habits. This is the first generation that’s significantly plugged in to a different extent, and so what does this mean? Modern life has created a distance between humans and nature that now we’re realizing isn’t good in a whole host of ways. So it’s a scary question: How will this affect our children, and how are we going to respond?”1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Outdoor Play Can Enhance Kids’ Spirituality. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 6, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/05/02/outdoor-play-can-enhance-kids-spirituality/69283.html

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