Kids undergo much stress and pressure to perform in a competitive world like ours. So, when your kids embark on the STEM education journey and robotics for kids and coding for kids, you want them to be in the best state of mind, free of any stress or anxiety, so creative juices start flowing freely.
One of the ways to do that is to utilize the power of nature in restoring attention and boosting cognitive performance. The Attention Restoration Theory was developed in the 1980s by Stephen Kaplan and Rachel Kaplan.
Nature as an Attentional Resource
The idea of nature possessing the power to restore attention and focus is old. In the 19th century, famous social critic and father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, commented on the therapeutic aspects of nature. He said views of nature tranquillize the mind but yet enlivens it and refreshes and reinvigorates it.
Psychological suffering is often related to mental fatigue when our mind wears out due to a daily list of tasks. Such a worn-out mind needs refreshment and restoration. In pre-modern days, the brain got ample rest which is not happening now. Resting the brain is essential, and nature plays a vital role in that effect.
Attention Restoration Theory
The idea behind ART is that our brains have a limited capacity to direct attention to a particular task for an extended period due to fatigue. However, looking at nature, the mind can restore its ability to focus and concentrate on the job.
The nature views should be such that they are compatible with your sense of aesthetics. It could be the sight of rain or a picture of the sunrise or sunset. The most effective therapeutic views naturally attract our attention instead of demanding it.
What Characterizes a Restorative Environment?
As per Kaplan, a restorative environment should have the following four qualities:
1. Being Away
A stimulating environment should enable you to escape from the daily grind of stressful activities. It makes the individual psychologically detached from the current setting, depleting their energy.
Extent is the ability or scope of the environment to let you feel immersed and engaged. Some elements determining this ability are your familiarity and comfort with the environment and whether the atmosphere keeps you at ease.
3. Soft fascination
The environment must be able to hold your attention automatically without you putting in any effort. Such settings should be exciting but not too interesting, so they hit the sweet spot.
Soft fascination differs from hard fascination in that, even though it engages your attention, you are not entirely absorbed and have the opportunity to reflect and introspect about the situation.
Compatibility is the extent to which an environment appeals to you. It must sync with an individual’s taste, needs, and predispositions. The individual must derive enjoyment from the environment to have a restorative effect. Individuals will experience restoration only if they are in a setting of personal choice and not under pressure.
The Four Stages of Restoration
As the mind reaches restoration, it passes through four different states of attention:
2. Recovery from Mental Fatigue
3. Soft Fascination
4. Reflection and Restoration
The first step in ART is catching the brain’s attention. It happens naturally, and there is no force applied. The individual is removed from his usual environment, and the current worries fade.
Once the mind is lulled and the brain is at rest, the recovery process begins to happen. The frontal lobes depleted by constant stress start regaining focus.
Soft attention is where the environment gets its hold on the individual, and they become immersed in the environment. However, it is still a detached kind of immersion, where the individual retains the power to think independently.
The fourth step is reflection and restoration. It is the step where the individual feels completely relaxed and can think and reflect on the problems at hand in a better way.
Can Restorative Environments Work only in nature?
As mentioned above, a healthy environment has four properties: being away, extent, soft fascination, and compatibility. To make your kids stress-free, you can come across the question of whether such environments exist only in nature or can be recreated.
A study on the restoration capacity of natural environments vs built / historical environments found that natural environments provide a higher level of restoration than built environments with similar therapeutic properties. People feel much more relaxed when they see pictures of nature vs when they see photos of an urban setting.
It indicates that nature is a therapeutic agent in itself and not merely because of its restorative properties.
As parents, some simple things you can do to get your kids closer to nature are to perform STEM activities outdoors, design STEM spaces resembling nature, and design spaces with interiors painted in green. Taking a break is essential. A small nature break will thrust your kid forward on STEM education, robotics for kids, and coding for kids path.