Here is a summary I pulled together to give an introduction to facilitating Kids for nature connection.


Overseas Studies have identified the benefit of nature connection for people and identified the lack of it as “nature deficit disorder”.

Examples of recent research into the many general benefits of nature connection:

Ecotherapy from Mind the UK mental health charity

National geographic summary


“There is already research evidence that exposure to nature can reduce hypertension, respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses; improve vitality and mood; benefit issues of mental wellbeing such as anxiety; and restore attention capacity and mental fatigue…..But more than that, feeling a part of nature has been shown to significantly correlate with life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and lower cognitive anxiety.”


2  Research is showing this is also true specifically for nature and children

The UK natural childhood report


One recent study found that connection to nature is as important to children’s achievement in English subjects as life satisfaction and attendance at school.

3  More and more research is pointing to how to best encourage the connection for children

“Rather than frame nature as a resource and place for occasional outdoor learning, there is a need for a more embedded and nuanced approach to ensure greater connection to nature. That is, there is a need to ensure contact with nature that highlights the enjoyment and wonder of it, while recognising our place within the natural world.


“For 350,000 generations humans have lived close to the land as hunter-gatherers; a sense of belonging, place, and feeling embedded within the broader natural world characterized these cultures. In some ways, then, it would be surprising if the modern life of being divorced from nature did not have some negative consequences associated with it and that being in nature had positive benefits.

When practitioners think of how to create settings to help clients feel better, they may want to think of more than simply how nature can restore depleted attentional capacity and reduce stress. They may also want to think of how people need to feel a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves and that this need may be fulfilled through a sense of belonging or connectedness to the natural world.”

Unstructured and sensory “play” is particularly important:

“Nature connection is a contact sport.”  Scott D Sampson

“Unstructured experiences in nature are more beneficial than structured experiences and the benefits are universal across cultural and geographic areas. “

“Voluminous evidence suggests that outdoor play deprivation contributes to obesity and, over time, the social and physical effects of obesity contribute, in circular fashion, to play deprivation.”

The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.”  Brown, Stuart (2009). Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

“Being outdoors, learning about the environment, being distracted by clues and pursuing marked stations on a nature trail is not a great pathway to increased connection to nature. Likewise, a computer-based educational hike learning about animals and plants isn’t either. Engaging with nature through the arts however did increase children’s connection to nature”

“A connection to nature isn’t related to knowledge of nature, rather it comes through finding meaning in nature; experiencing emotions in nature such as happiness and wonder; having compassion for nature; making contact with nature and appreciating nature’s beauty. When creating nature-based artwork we must make contact with nature, find and express emotion and find meaning – which can bring about compassion for nature.”

“Make the perception of nature central – signpost joy and wonder; emotion and beauty; and experiencing nature with the senses. Rather than finding a series of marker stations, find other reasons to pause and engage the senses with nature, and provide places to reflect.”

4  But Outside play levels appear to be declining in developed countries

“UK research found, on average, children were playing outside for just over four hours a week, compared to 8.2 hours a week when the adults questioned were children.”

In the USA 24% of teens say they go online “almost constantly”.


5  Examples of Overseas Organisations set up to promote nature connection for kids

UK Wild Network

“Our mission is to support children, parents and guardians to roam free, play wild and connect with nature.  We believe all children should have the right to access the outdoors for play, learning, expression and – ultimately – the development of a healthy mind and body.  We encourage, provoke, nudge, support, innovate and campaign for children, kids and young folk to get up and get outside:

To wander freely

To look up and around

To find wonder, awe and empathy in all life

To nurture, steward and protect

To run, jump, climb, crawl and explore the world on our doorsteps

To seek imagination in wildness

To find inventiveness in the woods

To grow happy healthy minds and bodies

To find comfort in solitude

To become truly connected”

Australia Nature Play



6   The research is also beginning In New Zealand Aotearoa

The Department of Conservation has a lot of recent publications:

DOC study on health and wellbeing benefits of conservation in NZ

current consultation


Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health.”

“Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment, but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading.”

“We need to allow children to develop their biophilia, their love for the Earth, before we ask them to academically learn about nature and become guardians of it.”

“Research has shown that empathy with and love of nature grows out of children’s regular contact with the natural world. Hands-on, informal, self-initiated exploration and discovery in local, familiar environments are often described as the best ways to engage and inspire children and cultivate a sense of wonder. These frequent, unstructured experiences in nature are the most common influence on the development of life-long conservation values.”

7   In NZ our outside play levels are low and may be dropping on average

“96 of Auckland kids percent got an hour a day exercise needed despite lots of inactivity”

“New Zealanders aged 12+ spend an average of 4 hours and 36 minutes a day on passive mass media and social entertainment activities – over 80 percent of all leisure time. The time spent on exercise or playing sport is just 19 minutes on an average day.”

We are using our devices more and more


8  Examples of New Zealand Organisations

Palmy dirty 30

Mental Health Awareness Week (MHF) the theme this year is connect to nature


Re-wild yourself