Playing Outside Helps Children with ADHD
Do you want a way to help to treat your child’s attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that’s free, drug-free and free of side-effects? Try nature. Scientific studies have pointed out a link between playing outdoors and fewer symptoms of ADHD. The trick is to make a habit of giving your child regular “treatments” of nature play time.
In 2001, University of Illinois researchers Frances Kuo and Faber Taylor studied the link between nature and easing ADHD symptoms. Parents of children with ADHD, ages 5 to 18 years old, were asked to log where their children played after school during the week and to record how severe their kids’ ADHD symptoms were. Parents’ lists included “Big Trees and Grass,” “Indoors,” “Open Grass,” and “Built Outdoors,” where the play area was paved or built rather than natural.
Children who spent time playing outdoors in “Big Trees and Grass” or “Open Grass” had significantly fewer symptoms of attention deficit disorder than kids who had been playing in spaces “Indoors” or “Built Outdoors.” Kids with hyperactivity only improved when they played in “Open Grass” areas like soccer fields or the big grassy spaces you might find at a city park.
What the Research Says…
In 2008, the same researchers studied 7 to 12 year-olds with ADHD who took a 20-minute organized walk in one of three settings: a downtown area, an urban park, or a residential area. Afterward, researchers (who didn’t know where the children had visited) tested the students’ concentration skills and asked them to rate how much they liked their walk. Researchers Kuo and Taylor found that the kids who took the guided walk in the park scored better on the concentration test than those who took guided walks in the other two areas. In fact, the researchers discovered that the effect of a 20-minute walk in a park was equal to that of two common ADHD drugs in easing the children’s symptoms. Furthermore, the children preferred the park walks to a walk in a manufactured setting.
In 2010, A.E. van den Berg and C.G. van den Berg studied children with ADHD who lived on farm therapy centers in the Netherlands to treat their ADHD. The researchers tested the children, aged 9 to 17 years, during visits to a woodland and a town, and found that the children concentrated better, and had more positive feelings and actions when in the woods than on their visits to the town.
The next time you take your child to a soccer field, a city park or other natural area, you’ll know that just by providing some time in nature, you’re helping to reduce your child’s ADHD symptoms. Routine park visits can help your child to do better in school and in daily life, and they can supplement the treatment your child’s doctor recommends. You may find nature therapy is worth a try.