Scientists at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Auckland have created a 16-part questionnaire for parents called the CNI-PPC (Connected to Nature Index-Parents of Preschool Children) to identify how well children in Hong Kong are relating to nature.

One of the densest urban areas on Earth, Hong Kong poses challenges for kids when it comes to connecting with nature, and the scientists are hoping to develop a tool to inspire policy changes and interventions that will help strengthen interactions between kids and their natural surroundings.

The questionnaire, created by Dr. Tanja Sobko of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong and Professor Gavin Brown of the University of Auckland, identifies four ways in which children usually develop a relationship with nature: “enjoyment of nature, empathy for nature, responsibility toward nature and awareness of nature.”

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Nearly 500 families with kids between the ages of two and five participated in the study, and they all responded to the 16 questions. After the families responded to the CNI-PPC, the researchers then measured the answers against a well-known child behavior measurement, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

The results told us something we already know — the more time kids spend in nature, the happier they are.

“Parents who saw their child had a closer connection with nature had less distress, less hyperactivity, fewer behavioral and emotional difficulties and improved pro-social behavior,” the University of Hong Kong press release said. “Interestingly, children who took greater responsibility toward nature had fewer peer difficulties.”

When a child grows up in an urban environment, without access to parks and green spaces, it can have lasting consequences. Children who lack access to the natural world can develop “nature-deficit disorder” or “child-nature disconnectedness,” and this can lead to a deterioration of mental and physical health.

The CNI-PPC is the first tool of its kind that “measures nature-related attitudes and awareness” for children in a highly urbanized Asian city.

+ University of Hong Kong

Via TreeHugger

Image via University of Hong Kong