Chennai: Scientists have found that social activities can help cement the bond between children and nature. They said solitary activities like fishing, hunting or exploring outside are key to building strong bonds between children and nature.
According to researchers, activities like these encourage children to both enjoy being outside and to feel comfortable there.
Kathryn Stevenson, corresponding author of a study on the topic and an assistant professor in North Carolina State University’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, said, “in order to create a strong bond with nature, you need to provide kids with an opportunity to be alone in nature, or to experience nature in a way that they can personally connect with it, but you need to reinforce that with social experiences either with peers or adults.”
Researchers led by an investigator from North Carolina State University surveyed 1,285 children aged 9 through 12 in North Carolina. The survey focused on identifying the types of activities that help children build a strong connection to nature, which they defined as when children enjoy being outdoors and feel comfortable there.
The researchers asked children about their experiences with outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and playing sports, and their feelings about nature overall. The researchers then used children’s survey responses to assess which activities were most likely to predict whether they had a strong connection to nature.
While they found that children who participated in solitary activities such as hunting or fishing built strong connections to nature, they also saw that social activities outdoors, such as playing sports or camping, helped to cement the strongest bonds that they saw in children.
“We saw that there were different combinations of specific activities that could build a strong connection to nature; but a key starting point was being outside, in a more solitary activity,” Stevenson added.
Rachel Szczytko, the study’s first author, said the finding that solitary activities were important predictors of strong connections to the natural world wasn’t surprising given findings from previous research.
“We have seen that when people who go into environmentally focused careers reflect on their lives, they describe having formational experiences outdoors during childhood, like walking on a favourite trail or exploring the creek by their home,” she said.
“We know that these kind of meaningful life experiences are motivating going forward. So we expected that when children are doing something more solitary, contemplative, when they’re noticing what’s around them, and have a heightened sense of awareness, they are more likely having these formative experiences and are developing more comfort and affinity for the outdoors.”