Special Education M.A.

Number of Pages


Year Approved


First Advisor

Mignard, Michael

Second Reader

Susan Larson


Children of the current generation are spending less time outdoors than ever before. Facing issues like excessive screen time, safety concerns, overscheduling, poor urban planning and inaccessible parks, children today are losing their ability and desire to play - a fundamental part to human development. Compared to children of past generations, they are less resilient, less imaginative, and more prone to serious mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, behavioral and attention disorders. This thesis analyzes current literature on the topic of children’s mental health and time spent outdoors. Children that participate in outdoor play have a more positive affect as well as fewer internalizing symptoms of anxiety and depression and fewer symptoms of ADHD. Higher levels of screen time and lower levels of outdoor play are associated with poorer social skills. The outdoors provides a balanced sensory experience for children, inspires the mind, and is an ideal setting to evaluate risks and accept challenges. Risky play allows children to overcome anxiety and fears. It allows them to build a strong character and have opportunities to make mistakes in order to learn how to handle future life challenges.

Degree Name

Special Education M.A.

Document Type

Masterʼs thesis