May 17, 2024

By the National Wildlife Federation

Did you know connecting children with nature offers significant health benefits? Studies indicate that outdoor time helps children develop physical strength, enhances their imagination and attention spans, reduces aggression and improves academic performance. Additionally, children who regularly spend time in nature tend to become better stewards of the environment.


How kids benefit from nature

For decades, the National Wildlife Federation has nurtured a connection with and stewardship of nature among wildlife enthusiasts of all ages, particularly children and families, through various resources, programs, policies and outdoor experiences.

Today, the amount of time kids spend outdoors is alarmingly low. Yet research shows that time spent in nature has many benefits for both children and adults.


Boys playing on tree stumps in forest. Friends are wearing casuals. They are spending leisure time together.


Children and nature today

  • Children are spending half as much time outdoors as children did 20 years ago.
  • Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in play, less aggressive and show better concentration.
  • Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.
  • The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in nature activities before the age of 11.


How kids can rediscover nature

Arms wraped around a tree trunk in the forest. The tree trunk has a green heart on it that appears to be made of algae.


Rediscover Nature with Green Hour™

One way the National Wildlife Federation encourages everyone to spend more time outdoors and engage with nature is by making a Green Hour™ Pledge.

The National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour™ initiative encourages and provides activities and tips to help kids and families of all ages spend time outside every day, in every season, discovering nature and the wonders of wildlife.

The idea for a “Green Hour” comes from research on creative play and health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Research also shows the best way to connect young people to a lifelong concern for nature, wildlife and the outdoors is through regular positive experiences.

Green Hour™ activities can be completed in 15- or 30-minute segments, but participants are encouraged to spend a full hour to get the most benefit and master their outdoor skills. New activities are provided every week and often coincide with family-friendly outdoor-focused special days and events.


Spring Green Hour™ ideas


A promotional sheet for the "Wildlife Detective" Green Hour scavenger hunt sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation. On the sheet are images of a duck, squirrel and a ladybug plus the scavenger hunt activity sheet.


Make time outdoors more meaningful by keeping Green Hour’s Nature Notebook. Children and adults can document their discoveries and remember their experiences by putting their observations in context. Scientists, explorers, detectives, writers and artists who study in the outdoors always carry paper or a device to record their findings.


Four examples of nature activity books. Two are open and have small handwriting in them, accompanied by some drawings of leaves and birds. One is closed with flowers drawn on the cover and a stick near it that was used as a pen. And one says "Nature 360" on it and a hand is actively writing in that notebook.


Working with teachers and youth organizations

The National Wildlife Federation provides ongoing nature and outdoor programming to schools, childcare centers, park agencies and other institutions to create a lasting base of environmental literacy, stewardship and problem-solving skills. Schools and community-based organizations across the country incorporate regular time for outdoor learning and play, using the National Wildlife Federation’s Schoolyard Habitats®Eco-Schools USA program and opportunities, such as tree planting events with Trees for Wildlife™. The National Wildlife Federation also offers educational resources such as lesson plans, curriculum and webinars for connecting kids and nature.


Four kids laughing in the woods. They are all either kneeling or sitting on the forest floor.


Inspiring kids and families

Ranger Rick®, the National Wildlife Federation’s flagship children’s publication, is an award-winning nature magazine for kids ages 7 to 12. It’s filled with captivating photos and intriguing stories and complimented with engaging online activities and mobile and iPad apps. Named for the National Wildlife Federation’s wildlife ambassador, Ranger Rick® has connected kids to nature for decades. Also, Ranger Rick® magazine is a great tool for developing nonfiction reading skills and conceptual science understanding.


Influencing policymakers

Working with affiliates and other partners, the National Wildlife Federation is making sure decision-makers recognize the integral role outdoor time plays in the health and well-being of our nation’s kids and our environment, advocating for them to pass policies that help children, youth and families spend regular time outdoors.



The National Wildlife Federation is committed to instilling a passion for nature in today’s youth. Read about its initiatives to bring communities outdoors.

Plus, learn how to get your children or grandchildren more involved in the great outdoors by discovering nature in your community, enjoying your time outside this summer and finding wildlife in urban spaces.

Related posts

Kids feeding goat as parents look on with amusement Kids feeding goat as parents look on with amusement

Inspiring Protection for Generations Then and Now

You watched Wild Kingdom protect the animal kingdom for generations to come. Help protect your kingdom with solutions from Mutual of Omaha.