Our way of living has transformed since the days of tight knit villages spread across vast amounts of terrain. Today, our children are more likely to come in contact with asphalt, gravel and rubber than they are with grass or trees.
Although unintentional, lack of access to nature may have a detrimental effect on our children. People raised around nature tend to have a better immune system and more beneficial gut bacteria than people who don’t—and the same goes for our kids.
Scientists in Finland decided to try and recreate a forest habit in a daycare facility. They put in a grass floor, added plants such as blueberries and dwarf heather, and also allowed children to care for container gardens.
The results were incredible. The children is daycares with forest additions showed better diversity in their microbiomes, as well as signs of enhanced immune systems like more killer T-cells present in the body.
What this Means
Science has supported the benefits of nature to children for a long time. We’ve known that nature has benefits, but not specifically why. This experiment was the first of its kind to directly manipulate a child’s environment to figure out what part of the environment benefits children.
Scientists found that when children had access to these urban forests, they received the same benefits as children who had access to a forest to play in every single day.
More biodiversity means healthier children
Exposing children to plants, soil, and all that nature has to offer will help keep them healthier. You can replicate this at home, even if you live in the middle of the city, by container gardening in your window and taking your children to green spaces regularly.
If you are a parent, seeking out a nature-based preschool may be of enormous benefit to your child. These simple changes can make a world of difference.