Monday, April 2, 2012

A Beautiful World and Healthy Brains


By Deborah McNelis, Owner Brain Insights

April is the month of Earth Day and the Week of the Young Child!
It is amazing to realize that the first Earth Day was over 40 years ago. It is fun however to remember that day when I worked on an Earth Day project with girlfriends in the small town in Minnesota where I grew up.  We painted the ecology symbol on the trash containers on Main Street as a reminder to not litter.
Now, all these years later I frequently write about how environments contribute to healthy brains. It is wonderful to have a day and a week to focus on ensuring we do all we can to live in and raise our precious children in healthy environments. It is critical that we start with the basics. 

The brain needs oxygen and water to function. We need to ensure these are pure and clean and are provided for everyone.

Did you know….?
  • Water makes up 85% of the brain.
  • Staying hydrated can help you stay focused and think clearly  throughout the day without empty calories or carbohydrates.
  • A loss of as little as 2% of your total body weight in water, drops performance and coordination dramatically.
  • Dehydration directly contributes to daytime fatigue.
  • Lack of hydration can make daily activities exhausting. 

  • Clean air provides the oxygen the brain needs.
  • Your brain uses 20% of the total oxygen used by your body.
  • Oxygen keeps your brain functioning optimally.
  • Physical activity and movement increase the amount of oxygen to your brain. 
  • Memory, concentration, attention span, are all affected by oxygen levels.

Emotions and moods are also improved when ensuring the brain is receiving adequate amounts of oxygen. We also need to ensure there are natural environments in which brains can relax, learn, and play. 

As I continuously emphasize, research demonstrates how valuable green spaces are to the brain.  Even short amounts of time in nature can provide a restorative benefit. It is critical that children have the opportunity to play and explore outdoors. 

A study conducted at the University of Michigan compared the difference between students who walked through an arboretum and others who walked through a busy downtown area of a city. The findings revealed that the students who had walked through the city had lower scores on tests of attention and working memory and were in a worse mood.

The information in this article from Audubon Magazine,  points out the need for nature pre-schools and spending time learning outdoors. 

As adults we need to do all we can to ensure that children have opportunities to develop their brains in healthy, natural and safe environments.  Parenting expert, SueAtkins shares:
“I think that there are two fundamental reasons why outdoor
play is critical for young children.
Firstly, children develop their fine and gross motor gross skills
through playing outside, as well as their dexterity and balance,
all through exploring and risk-taking and having fun in the fresh air.
Secondly, children of today are growing up with so much technology, excessive TV and computer use that playing outside is really important and mustn’t be sidelined or lost, because it develops a child’s imagination, their physical stamina as well as keeping them fit.”

I have listed resources below that I hope will be valuable in helping you promote Earth Day, support natural environments, and develop healthy brains! 

For brain fun and learning nature ideas for 3-5 year olds you will enjoy the Naturally Developing Young Brains Activity Packet. Proceeds go toward supporting increased nature pre-school experiences for more children! To find out more go to the Brain Insights website

Hope you have a wonderful Spring 
--- And enjoy a beautiful Earth Day!


  1. What a wonderfully thorough post . . . I love how water is tied to mood. Thanks for all of your research and insight.

    The Corner On Character

    1. Barbara,

      I am so glad you know you enjoyed this post! Thank you very much for your very nice comments.

      Enjoy the day!

  2. Thanks for the great information and links, Deborah! When I think of how important it is for me to get outdoors, it makes sense that it's even more important for kids to get outdoors in a healthy environment. I pinned your post to the collaborative Earth Day for Kids board at

  3. Thank you for including me in your great post :) Sue


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