Healthier by Nature

Playing in nature can positively impact children’s health and well-being. Nature is the ideal playscape for the climbing, running, pondering and wondering that are essential for healthy child development. Research indicates that unstructured outdoor activities improve children’s health by increasing physical activity, improving their motor skills, reducing stress, and lessening attention disorder behaviors.  Children and families that connect with nature increase their mental and physical wellness and gain a sense of life balance.

As San Diego works together for the Healthier by Nature initiative, we envision that outdoor play will be part of every child’s daily life, and that families will increase the time they spend outdoors in nature together.  Pediatric health providers will give NatureRx prescriptions for outdoor play, encourage families to spend more time being active in nature, and refer families to Prescription Trails and other nature places. 

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Happier by Nature

Research shows that children are healthier, happier, and smarter, when they spend time learning in nature and playing outdoors. Nature play increases self-esteem, improves psychological health and reduces stress. Children learn self-discipline and are more cooperative. Children and families that connect with nature increase their mental and physical wellness and gain a sense of life balance. Evidence also strongly suggests that playing in the natural world increases physical competency linked to mental acuity and focus. Make-believe play in the natural world not only stimulates the senses, but also builds good sense. Nature experiences – particularly when they’re part of independent play – contribute to a sense of wonder and awe, stimulates a love of the natural world, and plant the seeds of stewardship and lifelong learning.

As San Diego works together for a Happier by Nature initiative, we envision that families will increase the amount of time they spend outdoors in nature. Children will spend 60 minutes of unstructured time outdoors in nature every day.  Every community in the county will have easy access to a family nature club.  There will be natural play settings in early childhood centers and schools, and children will be allowed unstructured time outdoors in nature on a daily basis. Children will engage in regular excursions to nearby natural open spaces to explore and discover their world, both during the school day and in after school programs. Parks will have natural play spaces and children will be encouraged to explore natural areas surrounding the more traditional play areas.

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Smarter by Nature

Nature is an outdoor classroom where children experience science, math, language and cooperative learning by observing, touching, listening, smelling, telling and doing.  Nature can be actively used to teach lessons in all subjects. In addition to curriculum, nature is a great locale for counseling, teaching special education students, learning English as a second language, and for cross-age and volunteer tutorials.  When children explore nature, they develop their curiosity and creativity, learn problem solving and critical thinking skills, get a sense of place, and know they are part of something bigger than themselves. Through their experiences in nature, they become more passionate stewards of the natural world.  

The results of San Diego working together for the Smarter by Nature initiative will be that most or all schools have schoolyard gardens with native plants, that teachers actively use nature in their schoolyard or nearby open space for lessons, and that science education builds on students’ curiosity about the natural world.

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