Feeling Awe in Nature Makes Kids More Caring


Life is so hectic and busy these days.  When was the last time you and your child felt the emotion of AWE?  Maybe you went on a hike and reached a peak where you could see for miles.  Or you were at the ocean, gazing out at the water all the way to the distant horizon and watching the endless waves rolling onto the shore.

Recent scientific research into the complexity of this human emotion has unveiled a surprising discovery: awe makes us more caring toward others

When we work with children in the woods for occupational therapy sessions, children naturally experience awe.  They are in awe when hiking near a huge waterfall after heavy rains.  Or when discovering new vistas at the end of a trail. Or when climbing to new heights on a steep hill.  

We see first hand how awe promotes their pro-social behavior and makes them more caring.

Here’s a real life story to illustrate.  Last week our Outdoor Kids OT group was playing a group game in the woods.  A disagreement arose with some children opting out and sitting on the sidelines.  This ended the game.  We talked as a group and came to some resolution.  Then we hiked to the top of a rushing waterfall, and ALL of the children were in utter amazement.  In other words: they were feeling AWE.

Invoking a sense of awe to promote caring and awareness of others is just ONE of the many benefits that occupational therapy outdoors offers children.

Here’s how this relates to your daily life with your child: when things get intense with challenging behaviors, or stressful situations arise at home or school, seek out experiences to evoke awe.  

  • Take a hike.  
  • Go to the beach.  
  • Climb a tall tree.  
  • Admire a magnificent sunset. 

Experiencing awe bonds us as humans, and as parents and children.  

What are your favorite ways to experience awe?  Do you agree awe evokes empathy and awareness of others?

TipsLaura FigueroaNature