If your child has ADHD, a walk in the park or a kayaking trip can do more than just build muscle strength or resilience. A growing body of research is showing that being in the great outdoors provides a wide variety of benefits for ADHD children.
The ability to concentrate can be a major challenge for children with ADHD. But nature can help. In one study, children with a previous diagnosis of ADHD took walks in multiple settings — a natural park setting as well as neighborhood and urban environments. The study, by researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, found that children had clinically significant improvements in their concentration abilities after a walk in the natural setting. The researchers noted that “‘doses of nature’ might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool in the tool kit for managing ADHD symptoms.”
In another study, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers surveyed parents of children with ADHD from around the country, specifically in regards to their play settings. The study found that children who regularly played in outdoor settings had milder ADHD symptoms and that this was true regardless of the child’s gender or family’s income level. These researchers called for further clinical studies on the effects of greenspace for ADHD children. Francis Kuo, one of the researchers in the study, noted in an interview with ADDitude magazine that, “Those [children] who play regularly in the same green outdoor setting do have milder symptoms than those who play indoors or in playgrounds.”
Better Attention Span
A theory gaining popularity among many scientists is called Attention Restoration Therapy, or simply ART. This theory rests on the belief that exposure to nature can help improve the function of an individual’s attention. With this theory in mind, the scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who conducted the other park and outdoor play studies instructed parents to fill out assessments on the behavior of their ADHD children after play in a variety of settings. Their study found a strong relationship between improved attention and exposure to “greener” play areas.
So parents might consider after-school play dates in the park , weekend hikes and camping trips, or other creative ways to increase their child’s exposure to nature. While time spent outdoors is good for all children, studies like the ones above suggest that this could be especially beneficial for those with ADHD. It might help manage symptoms in a way that is both effective and enjoyable.