Psychologists have found time and again that a walk in a city park is much better for the tired brain than a walk down typical city streets. (Even a quick window view of some greenery can do a body good.) The leading explanation is called “attention restoration theory”: whereas our mental faculties get fatigued by the busy streets and tall buildings and crowded corners of urban life, they get refreshed by the undemanding nature of … nature.
Most of the work on attention restoration theory has focused on adults or hyperactive children. But new research from Anne Schutte and Julia Torquati of the University of Nebraska and Heidi Beattie of Troy University extends the restorative power of urban trees to very young kids (under 8) whose attention capacities are healthy but still developing. They conclude in Environment and Behavior (sans citations):
These results suggest that despite their less well-developed attentional system, even young children can benefit from time in nature.
The research trio recruited two groups of children for the study (excluding those with diagnosed attention deficits): preschoolers (ages 4 and 5) and school aged (ages 7 and 8). In line with previous attention restoration studies, the youngsters came into the lab then had their brains drained of some energy with a jigsaw puzzle. Half the kids then took a (chaperoned!) 20-minute walk through a typical urban environment (left), and half took a nature-filled stroll (right):
Environment and Behavior
After the walk they kids returned to the lab and took a series of several tests designed to measure…
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