Nature-based early childhood education and children’s social, emotional and cognitive development: a mixed-methods systematic review

Johnstone, A. et al. (2022) Nature-based early childhood education and children’s social, emotional and cognitive development: a mixed-methods systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(10), 5967. (doi: 10.3390/ijerph19105967) (PMID:35627504) (PMCID:PMC9142068)

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Abstract

This systematic review synthesised evidence on associations between nature-based early childhood education (ECE) and children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. A search of nine databases was concluded in August 2020. Studies were eligible if: (a) children (2–7 years) attended ECE, (b) ECE integrated nature, and (c) assessed child-level outcomes. Two reviewers independently screened full-text articles and assessed study quality. Synthesis included effect direction, thematic analysis, and results-based convergent synthesis. One thousand three hundred and seventy full-text articles were screened, and 36 (26 quantitative; 9 qualitative; 1 mixed-methods) studies were eligible. Quantitative outcomes were cognitive (n = 11), social and emotional (n = 13), nature connectedness (n = 9), and play (n = 10). Studies included controlled (n = 6)/uncontrolled (n = 6) before-after, and cross-sectional (n = 15) designs. Based on very low certainty of the evidence, there were positive associations between nature-based ECE and self-regulation, social skills, social and emotional development, nature relatedness, awareness of nature, and play interaction. Inconsistent associations were found for attention, attachment, initiative, environmentally responsible behaviour, and play disruption/disconnection. Qualitative studies (n = 10) noted that nature-based ECE afforded opportunities for play, socialising, and creativity. Nature-based ECE may improve some childhood development outcomes, however, high-quality experimental designs describing the dose and quality of nature are needed to explore the hypothesised pathways connecting nature-based ECE to childhood development (Systematic Review Registration: CRD42019152582).

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding: A.J. was supported by the Scottish Government’s Early Learning and Child Care Directorate (grant number 307242-01). A.M. was supported by the UK Medical Research Council and Scottish Chief Scientific Officer (grant numbers MC_UU_12017/14, MC_UU_00022/1, SPHSU14, SPHSU16) and the Scottish Government’s Early Learning and Child Care Directorate (grant number 307242-01). R.C. was partly supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, under Grant UIDB/00447/2020 to CIPER—Centro Interdisciplinar para o Estudo da Performance Humana (unit 447). J.J.R. was supported by the Scottish Funding Council. H.T. and V.W. were supported by the UK Medical Research Council UK and Scottish Chief Scientific Officer (grant number MC_UU_12017-13, MC_UU_12017-15, MC_UU_022/2; SPHSU13, SPHSU15, SPHSU17). P.M. was supported by the UK Medical Research Council and Scottish Chief Scientific Officer (grant numbers MC_UU_12017/10, MC_UU_00022/4; SPHSU10, SPHSU19) and the Scottish Government’s Early Learning and Child Care Directorate (grant number 307242-01).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wells, Ms Valerie and Thomson, Dr Hilary and Reilly, Prof John and Martin, Dr Anne and Mccrorie, Dr Paul and Johnstone, Dr Avril
Authors: Johnstone, A., Martin, A., Cordovil, R., Fjørtoft, I., Iivonen, S., Jidovtseff, B., Lopes, F., Reilly, J. J., Thomson, H., Wells, V., and McCrorie, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publisher:MDPI
ISSN:1661-7827
ISSN (Online):1660-4601
Published Online:13 May 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19(10): 5967
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727661Complexity in Health ImprovementLaurence MooreMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/14HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
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727651Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in HealthAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/13HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727671Informing Healthy Public PolicyPeter CraigMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/15HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
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727651Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in HealthAlastair LeylandChief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU13HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727671Informing Healthy Public PolicyPeter CraigChief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU15HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
3048231Inequalities in healthAlastair LeylandChief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU17HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727621Neighbourhoods and CommunitiesAnne EllawayMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/10HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
3048231Places and healthRich MitchellMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/4HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727621Neighbourhoods and CommunitiesAnne EllawayChief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU10HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
3048231Places and healthRich MitchellChief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU19HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit