Tree climbing
Trees provide a vast array of opportunities for sensory integration. Image Credit: Stock photo/Pexels

Trees are everywhere, vibrant, green and glorious. We often pass them by without a second glance, but did you know a daily dose of trees can have enormous benefits, especially for children?

Play today’s Word Search and find all the different types of trees.

According to a July 2021 study published in the UK-based journal Nature Sustainability, and conducted by the University College London and Imperial College London scientists, having a higher daily exposure to places with trees can help in children’s cognitive development. The study of more than 3,500 British children and teenagers found that the results hold true even if you live in a city or an urban environment – just as long as there are areas with trees.

The reason is because trees provide a vast array of opportunities for sensory integration – which is how the brain takes in, organises and responds to information from the body’s senses. Apart from the five familiar ones – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – two other senses, called “hidden senses” by occupational therapists, are exercised: balance and awareness of body in space.

Playing in a grove of trees, for instance, gives children the opportunity to stack rocks, watch birds potter around their nests, climb, smell flowers, balance on a log, and experience other sensory adventures that engage multiple senses and strengthen their neural pathways.

According to an August 2021 report in the National Geographic, it doesn’t even take a whole forest or a wooded park to spark children’s imagination and give their brains a workout. Just a single tree does the trick, and it doesn’t even have to be alive! Even dead, trees on the ground can teem with life, serving as a home for birds, bugs and other creatures that children can marvel at and observe.

Apart from reducing the effects of air pollution, providing shade and cooling, and decreasing children’s asthma risk, trees inspire a sense of wonder simply by existing. That’s perhaps one of the biggest reasons why children need a daily dose of trees – for their imagination and their health – every day.

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