Physical activities are important to facilitate children’s development. A recent systematic review by a team from the University of South Australia investigated whether playing in nature-based spaces could be beneficial for child health and development. Quantitative studies of children aged 2-12 years without health or developmental conditions examining unstructured nature play were included. The review identified 16 studies involving 711 children.
Due to the diversity in study methods, the research applied descriptive synthesis. The outcome measures covered different domains including physical activity, motor, cognitive, and social emotional development. Results showed that:
- Despite the various measures in outcomes, there were consistent positive impacts of nature play on physical activity outcomes and cognitive play behaviors.
- However, five out of seven studies reported no significant differences regarding to physical activity in nature play compared to traditional play space experiences.
The authors also expressed their concerns when interpreting the findings, which includes the evidence-base quality, the range of intervention descriptions, and the non-standardized nature of outcome measures. Further work is needed to understand the relationship between nature play and student outcomes.
Source (Open Access): Dankiw, K. A., Tsiros, M. D., Baldock, K. L., & Kumar, S. (2020). The impacts of unstructured nature play on health in early childhood development: A systematic review. PloS one, 15(2), e0229006.