Nature reduces kids’ signs of attention disorder

Does spending more playtime amid greenery improve behavior in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder?

To find out, Frances Kuo and Andrea Faber Taylor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed a questionnaire that probes how children with ADHD respond to dozens of extracurricular activities in settings including leafy backyards, indoor playrooms, and artificial outdoor environments, such as urban playgrounds.

The investigators had parents of children with ADHD fill out an online questionnaire, resulting in 452 completed surveys.

The results indicate that green environments generally improve a child’s attentiveness and focus, Kuo and Faber Taylor report in the September American Journal of Public Health. That’s true whether a child plays alone, with a single companion, or in a group, the researchers say. Solitary and one-on-one play each offer its own behavioral benefits.

In one analysis, the researchers excluded activities that could be done in only one setting, such as hiking and watching television. The results were similar to those of the study overall, suggesting that the setting, not just the activity, is important.

In a separate study, Kuo and Faber Taylor sent children with ADHD on a guided, 20-minute walk along a path dominated by either natural or urban features. After the walk, children who took the nature trail performed better on a test of attention than did their counterparts who strolled in an urban setting.