If you have kids, please read the following research findings.
Biophobia is developed due to people’s fear of living things and unexpectedness from nature. It is not uncommonly observed in urban children especially for those living in metropolitan areas. Contact with nature can evoke negative feelings such as fear, scary, disgusting and uncomfortable for urban children. Fear-evoking situations like getting lost or being chased by a swarm of bees reflected social influences and cultural shaping. Being disconnected from the natural environment, children raised in urban areas were afraid of being in the woods and were disgusted by the dirtiness of the outdoors (Collado et al., 2015)
Furthermore, findings of various studies even revealed that children in the city become nature-deficit disorder with physical inactivity, social and psychological ramifications and increased chronic disease trend.
In Lee and Min’s research (2006), children’s neighbourhood environment played a key role in shaping their personality. Kuo et al. (2002) suggested that natural elements such as trees facilitated social interactions amongst neighbours that could indirectly help monitoring of outdoor areas and supervising children in impoverished urban neighbourhoods. McCurdy et al. (2010) researched that the mental and physical health benefits associated with time spent exposed to green spaces.
Children having more daily contact with nature cope better with adversity. A research in Spain concluded that nearby nature moderated the negative effects produced by stressful events and children’s health and wellbeing also depended on the way that these environments encourage children’s contact with nature. (Corraliza et al., 2012)
Urban children spending more time in nature could enhance environmental attitudes and ecological behaviours. Activities with nature such as picking fruits, planting seeds or taking care of vegetables improved children’s pro-environmental attitudes. (Collado et al., 2015) Garden activities should also be organized in a way that children had an opportunity to freely use and shape the environment’s affordances, and a well-designed children’s garden was recommended. (Laaksoharju, 2012)
A study of urban English neighbourhoods suggested that neighbourhood green space could help urban children living in poor families to have better emotional health early in life (i.e. 3-5 years old). Peer, hyperactivity and conduct problems were fewer in children who were frequent users of parks and playgrounds and whose homes had access to a garden. (Flouri et al., 2014)
A study in Finland examined the physical qualities of a garden environment and the behaviour they bring out in 7- to 12-year-old suburban children. It revealed that garden-based activities appeared to promote the children’s zone of proximal development, which the environment’s affordances could teach useful life lessons to a child, and the information and knowledge that were attained through the senses by investigating the surroundings could be shared immediately in a group. Natural environment’s numerous affordances, including situations, spaces and materials, cought children’s attention easily and learning new things is effortless. (Laaksoharju, 2012)
A survey of 1,119 children aged 9-10 in China verified that the children’s contact with nature had significantly positive effect on nurturing biophilic attitudes to wildlife and enhancing their willingness to support animal conservation. (Zhang et al., 2014)
A study in Munich, Germany informed that risks of hyperactivity and inattention and peer relationship problems in 10-year old children were positively associated with increasing distances to urban green spaces. Children living further than 500m away from any urban green space had more overall behavioural problems than those living within 500m of an urban green space under an assumption that small (<5000s.m.) green spaces were excluded from the analysis. (Markevych et al., 2014)
These findings informed that green environment could encourage children’s physical activity and improve their health with pleasant outdoor spaces; meanwhile, the children felt less psychological distress if they lived in an area with more natural surroundings. Moreover, their experiences of nature were important to environmental attitude and ecological behaviour.
Green environment is crucial for children’s healthy development and there is no excuse to deprive their rights of contacting the nature and greenery even in the high-density urban environment.