Thursday, October 29, 2009

Children & Nature Network

Volume 4.

Greenspace supports children’s quality of life

Time spent outdoors supports many aspects of children’s health

Children’s classroom behavior is better if they have recess

Allocating time to physical activity in school does not negatively impact

academic achievement

School gardens positively impact children’s learning and behavior

Natural views from high school positively impact students’ academic

achievement and behavior

Real field trips provide better overall learning environments than virtual field trips

Older children who spend more time outside tend to be more physically active

and are less likely to be overweight

Green school grounds improve quantity and quality of elementary school

children’s physical activity

Schoolyard size and landscape quality influence children’s satisfaction and


Children in greener neighborhoods have lower body weight changes

And that's only by page 8......

These are headings from an annotated bibliography from the Children & Nature Network, compiling research resources with an emphasis on research published in 2008-2009 in two primary areas:

1) benefits to children from contact with nature

2) children’s experience of nature...... check it out.


Lately I feel like I've only been posting about exciting things happening in the UK, even though I have a foot in two camps (a Brit living in the US). Much as I like to stay neutral...... there just hasn't been anything new here to post about.... until now.

The American Association of Landscape Architects just posted this article on their LAND website about a revitalized 35 acre park in Florida and how the current recession encouraged them to pursue ideas about free play and re-engaging children with nature. By preserving as much green space as possible, solving safety issues, opening views into wooded areas and updating play equipment, they kept to their budget.

What was great to hear was that the newly cleaned up wooded area of the park really captured the children's imaginations.

So, if you find you are asked to redesign an existing little patch of nature...... don't mess with it. Kids will love it just as it is.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I love finding weird and wonderful things in nature that will excite/inspire/revolt and generally interest my kids. I watched David Attenborough's new series "Life" showing in the UK at the moment and the first episode had this little guy in it.

When he came out of his cocoon his eyes were on either side of his head, where there should be..... or so I thought. He proceeded to gulp air into his head and blow his eyes out on long stalks to where you see them now. The longer his stalks were the better chance he had of being the boss man and all the females in the area were his for the taking.......

Although parts of the program were a little adult for my kids, I let them see this guy....... they loved it.

Food or exercise?

Here is an interesting article on The Times website ( a UK newpaper) about new research into why we are getting fatter and whether exercise is the best way forward or rethinking our dietary needs.

American children have grown on average 9lb heavier since the 70's. It appears that to return to our leaner 1970's level in the US, children would have to reduce their calorie intake by about 350 calories a day..... cut that soda out and Bob's your uncle.... oh, if it were that simple, but it would be a start.

Please read it, there is too much interesting and thought provoking information in it for me to paraphrase and I wouldn't do it justice.

Friday, October 16, 2009

So this is interesting

"Children should not start formal learning until they are six, a review of primary education in England says."

The article on the BBC website quotes as saying that "there is no evidence that an early introduction to formal learning has any benefit, but there are suggestions it can do some harm."

I, for one, applaud the people putting this review together. Too many people are pushing children into the academics at a younger and younger age to the detriment of other important developmental activities, i.e. outdoor unstructured play, to name one. All for keeping up with test scores.

I know I never did very well on test scores and hated being assessed for my intelligence on how much I information I retained rather than whether I actually understood it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Happy 20th Birthday

It has been 20 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child became the first legally binding international convention to affirm human rights for all children. I read this article on the UNICEF website and it made me.......... well, I experienced a whole gamut of emotions I can hardly begin to describe.

Here is their final paragraph.

"This 20th anniversary of the CRC reminds us, most of all, of what we have left to do. The Convention demands a revolution that places children at the heart of human development – not only because this offers a strong return on our investment (although it does) nor because the vulnerability of childhood calls upon our compassion (although it should), but rather for a more fundamental reason: because it is their right."

Most kids don't exercise enough.

Ok, so that I know.......... but when the British Heart Foundation predicts that almost 70% OF CHILDREN WILL BE OVERWEIGHT BY 2050, well, what more can I say?

Will our next generation end up like this? Link.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To dream......

I love getting emails like this. The wonderful people from Play England (UK non profit funded by lottery money and part of National Children's Bureau) sent out their draft of a strategic planning guidance, called Embedding the Play Strategy, to assist local decision makers to put children's play at the heart of their local communities.

This is the first national Play Strategy and it "sets out the government's vision and commitments for better play opportunities for children in England."

Every country should have one....... wouldn't it be lovely if it became the done thing, a special department in the government set up for expanding opportunities for children and play.........

Peter O'Toole sang it better than I ever can........ To dream the impossible dream.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Children at Play Conference

It's always nice to hear that I'm not the only one.... even though sometimes I feel like I am. Interested in getting children outside, that is.. Ok, so I know I'm not but when I hear of exciting conferences going on, I know the word is getting out there.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest are presenting a one day conference on exploring the value of free play in nature.

Shame Los Angeles is not a hop, skip and jump away from Clermont, Kentucky or I'd be there in a heartbeat.