Nature Develops Children’s Minds by Increasing Academics & Decreasing ADHD

Children around the world are migrating indoors. American kids spend more than 7 hours daily watching screens and a mere 7 minutes playing outside. In developed countries worldwide, 1 out of every 3 children spends less than 30 minutes outside daily.

Our global society has never been more disconnected from the natural world.

We are beginning to see the effects of this mass migration in our children, and specifically their minds.

Research shows that nature can boost our kids academically while also mitigating the symptoms of attention often seen in disorders like ADHD.


Academic Success

Environmental education in schools improves students’ standardized test scores. One study compared the standardized test scores of 77 pairs of demographically equivalent schools. Half of the schools integrated environmental education while the other half did not. Students from the environmental education schools scored higher in math, reading, writing, and listening (Bartosh, 2003).

Environmental education has been shown to boost critical thinking skills. Researchers analyzed test scores for 400 students, grades 9-12, in 11 Florida high schools. Some of these students were exposed to “Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning” programs. Those students who participated in these programs scored significantly higher on the Cornell Critical Thinking Test (Ernst & Monroe, 2004).

Not only does nature have a positive effect on our children’s academics, but it can also mitigate attention and focus issues that come with ADHD.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is more prevalent than it’s ever been before, with an estimated 4.5 million children aged 5-17 diagnosed with the disorder.  From 1997-2006, diagnoses of ADHD increased 3% every year. And it’s estimated that $36-$52 billion dollars are spend annually on the disorder, providing a very challenging situation for our health care system and families.

One study looked at children’s behaviors by having their parents and teachers fill out questionnaires. related to outdoor time and ADHD behaviors. They also measured the amount of green and blue space the students were exposed to using satellite data. According to parents, children who spent more time playing outdoors were less hyperactive/inattentive, had more positive emotions, and better peer relationships. For children who had more greenness around their homes, parents reported less hyperactivity/inattention, more positive emotions, better peer relationships, fewer conduct problems, and more pro-social behaviors. According to teacher observations, children who had “greenness” within 100 meters of their home had fewer ADHD symptoms, specifically, these children were more attentive. Teachers reported fewer ADHD symptoms for children who spent more time playing outdoors but those results were not statistically significant (Amoly et al., 2014).

Let me be clear, a lack of nature isn’t the sole cause of ADHD, neither is it the only solution. However, there are studies that provide evidence that time in nature can help mitigate and even eliminate some of the symptoms of this illness.

Quick Stats

Academics, science shows that nature can:

  • increase critical thinking (Ernst & Monroe, 2004)
  • increase problem solving skills (Kellert, 2005)
  • increase standardized test scores (Bartosh, 2003)
  • increase cooperative behaviors (Bell & Dyment, 2006)
  • increased cognitive development (Dadvand et al., 2015)

For ADHD Symptoms, science shows that nature can (Amoly et al., 2014):

  • increase attentiveness
  • decrease hyperactivity
  • decrease impulsivity
  • promote pro-social behaviors
  • lead to more positive emotions


There is scientific evidence that nature can help develop your children’s mind. Here, I present research specifically on academic scores and ADHD, however, other components of the “mind” could be included. If you have any questions, join our Facebook group Nature Challenge and post it there! I’d love to help!


You might like these posts:

  1. Nature Increases Student Performance on Standardized Tests
  2. Nature as a Supplemental Treatment for ADHD
  3. 5 Nature Treatments for Kids with ADHD


Amoly, E., Dadvand, P., Lopez-vicente, M., Basagana, V., Julvez, J., Alvarez-Pedrerol, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., Sunyer, J. (2014). Green and blue spaces and behavioral development in Barcelona schoolchildren: the BREATHE Project. Environmental Health Perspectives. 122(12):1351-1358.

Bartosh, Oksana. (2003). Environmental Education: Improving Student Achievement. Evergreen State College.

Bell, Anne C.; and Janet E. Dyment. (2006).Grounds for Action: Promoting Physical Activity through School Ground Greening in Canada. Evergreen.

Dadvand, P., Nieuwenhuijsena, M., Esnaola, M., Forns, J., Basagana, X., Alvarez-Pedrerol, M., Rivas, L., Lopez-Vicente, M., Pascual, M.D.C., Su, J., Jerrett, M., Querol, X., Sunyer, J. (2015). Green spaces and cognitive development in primary school children. Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 112(26):7937-7942.

Ernst, J, & Monroe, M. (2004.) The effects of environment-based education on students’ critical thinking skills and disposition toward critical thinking. Environmental Education Research. 10(4): 507-522.

Kellert, Stephen R. (2005).  “Nature and Childhood Development.” In Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.


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