The Benefits Of Nature Therapy for ADHD Kids
You know that sunshine, fresh air, and exercise may make you healthier. At least, I hope you do. Well, there’s been studies done to show a link that exposure to nature can reduce the symptoms of ADHD, at least, temporarily. But the study found that even just 20 minutes a day in an open field can give a child with ADHD (and their parent) a couple hours of calm.
At least one study has shown why nature is good for relieving symptoms of ADHD in children. And while getting outside is great, the study found that the “greener” the space, the better. And I don’t mean just the color green, I mean naturally occurring plants, flora (and maybe fauna). Forests, fields, and parks are a much better choice than walking around the neighborhood or going to a “green” downtown area of your local city.
What can you do that’s not just walking around the block? Here are some suggestions for more nature therapy:
- Local hikes
- Natural loose parts in the backyard
- Grow a garden
- Take the family pet for a walk (I’ve seen rabbits and cats on harnesses. I tried it once with my ferret, that was hilarious and scary as it tried to escape. I wouldn’t recommend taking hard to catch pets out)
- Play sports (organized or just the family playing hide and seek in a park)
That was the what/how. But how about the why? Or the why not? Why not get your ADD child outside, without a screen in front of them, and just let them run? Why not let them stack firewood or push a wheelbarrow full of compost to help you in the garden?
Here’s WHY Nature Therapy should be part of your child’s (and my own) daily treatment:
- Growing a garden: another study has shown that microbes in dirt can make you happy (and possibly produce an immune boost in chronically ill patients) Read it here.
- Hard work in the garden (or any heavy work – proprioceptive input) can help with a child recognizing where their body is in space and then being able to regulate their movements. Like, dancing in the aisles in the grocery store (my daughter) or fidgeting in class (my son).
- Also known as play therapy, eco therapy, adventure therapy, wilderness therapy.
- Forest schools are popping up all over the world (and have been in Europe for years) and the Wild Child Movement is growing a wide community.
- Montessori and other alternative styles of education recognize nature play as a necessity to child development.
- And, Mom or Dad; grandparents and other guardians, nature therapy is GREAT self care for YOU.
I’ve had personal experience with nature therapy affecting my two ADHDers.
Can I tell you a story? A few weeks ago Monkey and Abalone went on a school camp out. This wasn’t a leisurely camp, this was crammed with educational time while also being in nature. They learned about watersheds, the difference between different types of fir trees, how to investigate bugs and scat, and lots of other STEM type of activities. I went along as a chaperone to my son in case he had big emotions and they didn’t want the whole group to miss out on things until he could calm down. Kids are required to stay with their cabin parents during camp out.
Besides maintaining safety, the adults’ main responsibility was to give the kids as much independence as the adult could allow. This event was a way for the students to put into place what they have learned over the past school year, academically and emotionally. This meant that one of the kids’ requirements was to pack around their own things, and if they forgot something, we would not be veering off schedule to retrieve those things. It rained. They forgot their rain gear in the cabin. Some got wet in the lake and wanted to change after they were reminded we wouldn’t be going back. These are natural consequences. Their backpacks had weight to them. They held water, cameras, field guides, anything they would need for the time we were out, before we could get back to the central area of camp or our cabins.
I barely saw my daughter during those three days. But when we got home they were different kids. I got to see that my children knew how to do things, that at home they would whine about. And we got about a week of great behavior from them, just from 3 days of intensive nature therapy.
That good behavior has waned and reduced in intensity. In some ways they’ve gone back to their old selves but that’s the point, this needs to be a daily regimen. And I think trusting them to do things on their own is a practice My Mechanic and I could put into play more often. Arguing with them less is also a good choice on my part. *wink* But those 3 days proved to me that green therapy works. And that regular therapy, just like some people have to take daily medication, should be a mandatory in all of our lives, but especially children.