New research suggests playing outside for five-10 hours a week can increase a child’s spiritual connection with the environment.
Michigan State University investigators found children who spend significant time outdoors have a stronger sense of self-fulfillment and purpose than those who do not.
As discussed in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who played outside said they felt a connection with the earth, and felt their role is to protect it.
“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being,” said Dr. Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious studies.
“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.”
For example, the children in her study expressed feelings of peacefulness and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them.
They also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature’s power, such as storms, while also feeling happy and a sense of belonging in the world.
Investigators also measured children’s aesthetic values, finding that those who engage in free play outside on a regular basis have a deep appreciation for beauty (i.e., balance, symmetry, and color), order and wonder (i.e., curiosity, imagination, and creativity).
For example: lush green bushes, pattern-like blue spots in water, and fascination with bees’ nests.
Van Wieren and co-researcher Dr.…