Research: impact of nature
Evidence for the impact on & benefits to children of spending time in and engaging with nature.
Research documents are, as much as possible, arranged in chronological order, most recent at the top
The impacts of unstructured nature play on health in early childhood development: A systematic review
‘Nature play had consistent positive impacts on physical activity outcomes and cognitive play behaviours (imaginative and dramatic play). ‘
Dankiw, Tsiros, Baldock & Kumar, University of South Australia, 13 February 2020.
State of Nature Play
‘State-wide report of nature play, bush kinder & outdoor learning providers & initiatives in Victoria … identifies a growing & unmet demand … [and] key barriers & areas in need of support.’
Kids In Nature Network (Aus), 20 November 2018.
Children & Nature Network research library
Making the Case for Children and Nature. ‘The Children & Nature Network curates and summarizes peer-reviewed scientific literature to help build the evidence base for advancing the children and nature movement.’ You can browse the library or sign up for their monthly Research Digest.
Various dates, regularly updated
Can your child’s phone bring them closer to nature?
‘Our five-year project will find out how apps and technology change children’s experiences and knowledge of the great outdoors. And we need your help! I will investigate how technology and social media impact on children’s and young people’s experiences of the natural world as part of a five-year project ‘Natural Technology.’ Runs from 2018 to 2022.’
Science Nordic, 10 January 2018.
Trees as affordances for connectedness to place
A model to facilitate children’s relationship with nature ‘Summary: Tree play can deepen connection to nature and afford opportunity for risky play.’ Study undertaken in Finland with children age 7-12.
Children & Nature Network (US), published online October 2017
We Know Nature Makes Us Happier. Now Science Says It Makes Us Kinder Too
“New studies show being in nature may increase your willingness to be generous, trusting, and helpful toward others.” This article summarises a good selection of the reserach providing this evidence.
YES Magazine (US), 12 March 2016
Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment pilot study: visits to the natural environment by children
Results from a project to test a method of measuring the level of access to the natural environment by children in England.
Natural England, 10 February 2016
Concerns raised over number of children not engaging with nature
Article on a two-year study that finds more than 10% of children in England have not been to a natural environment in the past 12 months. Children from low-income families and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) households are markedly less likely than white children and those from higher income households to frequently visit urban or rural wild places, according to the survey conducted by Natural England.
The Guardian, 10 February 2016.
How walking in nature changes the brain
‘Researchers conducted a study which asked randomly selected participants to spend 50 minutes walking in either a natural or urban setting, and to submit to a series of psychological assessments before and after the walk. ‘
Well, New York Times, 22 July 2015
The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition
‘This study extends previous research by demonstrating additional benefits of nature experience on affect and cognition through assessments of anxiety, rumination, and a complex measure of working memory.’
ScienceDirect, 3 March 2015
Good from Woods research toolkit
‘Good from Woods is a community of researchers exploring and reporting on the health and wellbeing outcomes of spending time in the woods. The toolkit is designed to help you do rigorous research into whether your woodland activity has an impact on the health and wellbeing of participants.’
Children & Nature Worldwide: An Exploration of Children’s Experiences of the Outdoors & Nature with Associated Risks and Benefits
‘Provides an evidence base for the importance of children’s and youth’s connections with nature, now and for the future. Evidence provided in this annotated bibliography of research relates to: 1) children’s experiences of the outdoors and nature … and 2) the benefits derived from children’s experiences of the outdoors and nature—both for their healthy development and the protection of the Earth.’
Children & Nature Network, 2012 (pdf)
Spending Time in Nature Makes People Feel More Alive, Study Shows
Round up of research demonstrating ‘ the importance of having access to parks and natural surroundings and of incorporating natural elements into our buildings through windows and indoor plants.’
University of Rochester (US), 3 June 2010
Learning comes naturally for some
Children who play in ‘nature-inspired’ playgrounds have improved concentration compared with children who stay indoors, a study has shown.
The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 24 January 2010
Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature
‘Five studies utilizing survey, experimental, and diary methods assessed the effects of being outdoors on subjective vitality … Being outdoors was associated with greater vitality, a relation that was mediated by the presence of natural elements.’
Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3 November 2009
The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature
‘These experiments demonstrate the restorative value of nature as a vehicle to improve cognitive functioning ‘ and considers Attention restoration theory (ART).
Sage Journals, 1 December 2008
A ‘Dose of Nature’ for Attention Problems
‘Parents of children with attention deficit problems are always looking for new strategies to help their children cope. An interesting new study suggests that spending time in nature may help.’
Well, New York Times, 17 October 2008
‘Wild’ Nature Play Before Age 11 Fosters Adult Environmentalism
“If you want your children to grow up to actively care about the environment, give them plenty of time to play in the “wild” before they’re 11 years old, suggests a new Cornell University study.”
Science Daily (US), 13 March 2006
Nature & the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences to Adult Environmentalism
“This paper examines connections between childhood involvement with the natural environment and adult environmentalism from a life course perspective. ”
JSTOR (US), 2006 (pdf)