Too Much Background Noise: The Argument for Outdoor Learning

remote control 932273 1280Background noise–in American homes–is most commonly a television. It’s something to fill the silence and catch a glance as you walk from one side of the house to the other. Many parents use it as a “babysitter” for their children–this is where the issue comes in. In a recent NPR article, a new study in the journal Child Development was discussed. While many studies have looked into background noise affecting a child’s learning capability, not many have focused in on television noise specifically or how background noise affects toddlers negatively. This can easily be used as an argument for more outdoor learning at home and in traditional school.

What did the study include?

The researchers wanted to look into toddlers because learning words early is a large part of developing basic reading and language skills. It’s “foundational” for children. They took a group of 40 toddlers and got them to listen to someone saying new words in sentences. In the recordings, there were also two people speaking–half of the toddlers had louder background speech, half had quieter. The background noise was supposed to mimic someone having a conversation in the same room, the television, or the radio.
As the background noise was still going, the toddlers were taught what the new words meant by displaying images of what each word was on a screen. After this, the researchers tested if the toddlers learned the new words or not–the group of toddlers with quieter background noise were the only ones that learned the new words. They conducted the same experiment with toddlers that were 6 months older and had the same results.
This shows that noise has a large part in affecting how a child understands and processes information.

The argument for more outdoor learning

Think back to elementary, middle, and high school. Was it loud? For me, it was. I would get distracted often by noise from other classrooms, videos playing in the classroom next to mine, and other classmates speaking. It’s hard to focus with a lot of noise. Outside, that noise largely dissipates. Even when you have many people outside around one another, it’s not as loud. Sounds aren’t bouncing off close walls and mingling with each other, it’s naturally quieter.
This is the argument for more outdoor learning. Even taking a small amount of time to go outside and teach can be beneficial. Not only is it not as loud, but being in nature has been proven to have significant effects on anxiety, depression, mood, and more. While schools may not change their ways, you can do this at home. If you live in the city, take them to the park; if you live in the country, allot a time that has to be spent outside. If your child is still a toddler, go outside to read them a book or teach them new words. There are so many options and ways to incorporate outdoor learning into your child’s life–you just have to search for them.

Trails Carolina can help!

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for struggling youth, ages 10-17. Our students commonly deal with issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other behavioral challenges. We use outdoor learning and wilderness therapy to improve the lives of young people.
For more information about how Trails Carolina can help your child, please call 800-975-7303 today!

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Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

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