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Spending Time in Nature: A Natural Remedy for Children with ADHD

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Have you ever considered that something that can help alleviate your child's ADHD symptoms exists right outside your home? Spending time in nature may benefit children with ADHD significantly.

A number of studies support the claim that regular exposure to the outdoors and green space is a safe, natural treatment that can be used to help children. Activities in nature may increase their ability to pay attention and decrease levels of stress and anxiety.

In the book The Last Child in Woods, author Richard Louv suggests that today’s children are the first generation to be raised without meaningful contact with the natural world. He also offers examples of ways you can thoughtfully incorporate nature into your child's life.

How Nature Can be Restorative

According to psychologist William James, there are two kinds of attention: directed attention (used when dealing with tasks that require mental effort) and fascination (i.e., involuntary attention).

Inspired by William James, a husband-and-wife research team, Stephen and Rachel Kaplan began a nine-year study for the U.S Forest Service. They followed participants in an Outward Bound-like wilderness program, which took people into the wild for up to two weeks.

During and after this period, participants reported experiencing a sense of peace and an ability to think more clearly. They also noted that just being in nature was more restorative than the physically challenging activities, such as rock climbing, for which such programs are mainly known.

According to the Kaplans’ research, too much directed attention leads to what they call "directed-attention fatigue," marked by impulsive behavior, agitation, irritation, and inability to concentrate.

As Stephen Kaplan explained in the journal Monitor on Psychology, "If you can find an environment where the attention is automatic, you allow directed attention to rest. And that means an environment that's strong on fascination." The fascination factor associated with nature is restorative, and it helps relieve people from direct-attention fatigue.

Tip #1: Choose the Outdoor Activities you Can Enjoy Together

A growing body of research shows that children and adults who spend time in nature increase their ability to pay attention and have lower stress and anxiety levels.

These are some of the activities you can enjoy as a family:

  • Plant a garden with your children. Gardening may be a great form of exercise, but it also helps children learn more about nature. If you don't have a backyard, you can use flower boxes or planters.