A low-cost method for understanding how nature-based early learning and childcare impacts on children’s health and wellbeing

Traynor, O., Martin, A. , Johnstone, A. , Chng, N. R. , Kenny, J. and Mccrorie, P. (2022) A low-cost method for understanding how nature-based early learning and childcare impacts on children’s health and wellbeing. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 889828. (doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.889828) (PMID:35814071) (PMCID:PMC9260060)

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Abstract

Nature-based play and learning provision is becoming increasingly popular across the early learning and childcare (ELC) sector in Scotland. However, there remains a lack of understanding of how the program is expected to function. This has implications for program learning and may affect wider rollout of the program. Secondary data analysis of parent interviews (n=22) and observations (n=7) in Scottish ELC settings, and review of internationally published studies (n=33) were triangulated to develop a program theory using the Theory of Change approach. This approach makes a program’s underlying assumptions explicit by systematically demonstrating the relationship between each component: inputs, activities, outcomes, impact, and the contexts of the program. Findings suggested that location of outdoor nature space, affordances, availability of trained practitioners, and transport to location lead to activities such as free play, educator-led activities, and interactions with nature, resulting in longer durations of physical activity, interactions with peers and educators, and increased engagement with the natural environment. These activities are vital for supporting children’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Our results demonstrate the value of using secondary data analysis to improve our understanding of the underlying theory of nature-based ELC which can support future evaluation designs. These findings will be of interest to program evaluators, researchers, practitioners, and funders, who find themselves with limited resources and want to better understand their program before investing in an evaluation. We encourage researchers and evaluators in the field of early years and outdoor play in other countries to refine this logic model in their own context-specific setting.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:OT was supported by the UK Medical Research Council (funding code MC_ST_00022). AM 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). AJ, AM, and PM were supported by the Scottish Government’s Early Learning and Child Care Directorate (grant number 307242–01). PM 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). NC was supported by UK Medical Research Council and Scottish Chief Scientific Officer (grant numbers MC_UU_00022/2, SPHSU17). JK was supported by an Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund, University of Glasgow.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Chng, Dr Nai Rui and Traynor, Oliver and Martin, Dr Anne and Mccrorie, Dr Paul and Johnstone, Dr Avril
Authors: Traynor, O., Martin, A., Johnstone, A., Chng, N. R., Kenny, J., and Mccrorie, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Frontiers in Psychology
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1664-1078
ISSN (Online):1664-1078
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Frontiers in Psychology 13:889828
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
3048231Complexity in healthSharon SimpsonMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/1HW - 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
3048231Inequalities in healthAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/2HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727661Complexity in Health ImprovementLaurence MooreOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU14HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
3048231Complexity in healthSharon SimpsonOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU16HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
3048231Inequalities in healthAlastair LeylandOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU17HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727621Neighbourhoods and CommunitiesAnne EllawayOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU10HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit