Walks in Nature Strengthen Parent-Child Bonds

March 07, 2020

Quote of the Week

"An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." --Henry David Thoreau

Walks In Nature Strengthen Parent-Child Bonds

Spending time in nature with your kids—even if it’s just a 20-minute walk in a nearby park—can strengthen parent-child bonds and help family members get along better with one another, according to a new study on natural spaces and development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"Attention Restoration Theory" (ART) (Kaplan, 1989) posits that mental fatigue and concentration can be improved by time spent in, or looking at nature. Past research shows that in nature individuals' attention is restored but the authors wanted to know, what does that mean for family relationships? In their theoretical model they predicted that when an individual's attention is restored, people are less irritable, have more self-control, and are able to pick up on social cues more easily.

The study examined over two dozen mother-daughter dyads (children’s ages 10-12 years) who were asked to take a 20-minute walk together in nature and also in a mall. Then, the authors tested both the mothers' and daughters' attention while observing their familial interactions after each walk. The results were striking: A walk in nature restored attention and increased positive interactions significantly more than walking inside the mall. Also, after the nature walk, mothers and daughters displayed greater cohesion, a sense of unity, closeness, and the ability to get along, compared to the indoor walk. Read more in this week's featured article from Psychology Today magazine.

Reading Corner

Title: The Hidden Life of Trees
By: Peter Wohlleben
Ages: Teen-adult

This fascinating book will intrigue readers who love a walk through the woods. Wohlleben, who worked for the German forestry commission for 20 years and now manages a beech forest in Germany, has gathered research from scientists around the world examining how trees communicate and interact with one another. They do so using a variety of methods, including the secretion of scents and sound vibrations to warn neighboring plants of potential attacks by insects and hungry herbivores, drought, and other dangers.

The book includes a note from forest scientist Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia, whose studies showed that entire forests can be connected by “using chemical signals sent through the fungal networks around their root tips” and led to the term “the wood-wide web.” Wohlleben anthropomorphizes his subject, using such terms as friendship and parenting, which serves to make the technical information relatable, and he backs up his ideas with information from scientists. He even tackles the question of whether trees are intelligent. He hopes the day will come “when the language of trees will eventually be deciphered.” Until then, Wohllenben’s book offers readers a vivid glimpse into their secret world. --Publisher's Weekly

Be the Change

Wondering how to incorporate more outdoor walks with your kids? Find great advice from this "outdoor mom" by checking out her 9 tips on hiking with kids.  First tip--don't call it a hike!