Policy Library

Resource Center


Dive into our resource center, a curated collection of research, articles, and links to trusted external resources on our core issue areas. Explore a variety of perspectives and find the tools you need to make informed decisions!

What does the research say about youth outdoors?

Time outdoors promotes physical and mental health

  • Children who play and learn outdoors are more active and physically fit, with decreased rates of obesity. Playing outdoors promotes core strength, balance and agility, and the development of gross motor skills.
  • Mothers who live in greener neighborhoods have healthier birth weight babies.
  • Time spent in bright sunlight is required for the development of healthy vision; myopia in children has risen 25% over the past 40 years and is directly linked to kids not spending time outdoors.
  • Studies investigating the psychological benefits of outdoor learning find that just one hour per week can lead to significant improvements in children’s moods and long-term improvements in well-being.

Time in nature supports children's happiness

  • Multiple studies show that spending time outdoors together strengthens family bonds.
  • Spending time in nature positively contributes to children’s well-being, providing a respite from the stresses and anxieties of modern childhood.
  • Unstructured outdoor recreation provides opportunities to take risks, develop problem solving skills and build self esteem.
  • The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits.

Regular time outdoors boosts learning and academic achievement

  • Kids who participate in regular environmental education and outdoor learning opportunities have higher academic achievement.
  • Regular physical activity, which tends to be greater outdoors, improves brain function in children.
  • Kids who learn and play in natural environments have better performance in reading, math, science and social studies.
  • Children who have regular access to the outdoors have enhanced creativity and executive function, fewer behavior problems, and increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning.

Kids who spend time outdoors learn to care for the environment

  • A personal connection to nature in childhood carries over into adulthood.
  • Time spent outdoors during childhood, and role models who care for nature, are the two most influential factors that contribute to environmental stewardship in adults.

Research Libraries


eeResearch – Youth & nature research library offering summaries and easy-to-use search and filter tools. 

Children & Nature Network Research Library

Children & Nature Network Research Library – Youth & nature research library offering summaries and a robust, extensive search and filter tools.

NCEL Resource Center

NCEL Resource Center – State policy factsheets and briefs for a wide range of environmental topics, including outdoor policy.

Case Studies