Children Who Spend A Lot Of Time Outside May Be More SpiritualBy Jaleesa Baulkman, UniversityHerald Reporter
Children who spend a lot of time outdoors may be more spiritual, according to a recent study.
Researchers found that spending a significant time playing outside could give kids a stronger sense of self-fulfillment and purpose than those who don't. They suggest that children's experience in nature may be linked with how they define spirituality.
Based on their findings, children who played outside for five to 10 hours per week said they felt a spiritual connection with the Earth, and felt their role is to protect it.
"These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being," researcher Gretel Van Wieren said in a statement. "We were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, 'Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?' But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways."
Researchers used a mix of research methods, including in-depth interviews, drawings, diaries and observation, as well as conversations with parents, on 10 children, aged 7 and 8, to measure their aesthetic values.
They found that those who engage in free play outside on a regular basis have a deep appreciation for beauty, order and wonder. For example: lush green bushes, pattern-like blue spots in water and fascination with bees' nests.
Children also reported feelings of peacefulness and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them. They also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature's power, such as storms, while also feeling happy and a sense of belonging in the world.
Researchers also found that parents of the children who expressed the highest affinity toward nature and the strongest spirituality spent significant time outdoors during their childhoods. And many of the parents believed such experiences shaped their adult lives and spirituality.
The findings were recently published in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.