Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2 Rich with potential

Described image
A baby lying on their tummy in the grass.

This section will consider in more detail the actual benefits for young children of being outdoors. There is evidence that the benefits can be physical, psychological, social and emotional. Bento and Dias (2017), who are writing in the context of Portugal, suggest that the ‘open and constantly changing’ nature of the outdoors is rich with potential for learning and developing. In addition to the impact on children’s cognitive development, they outline other benefits to include:

… being exposed to sunlight, natural elements, and open air, which contributes to bone development, stronger immune system…and higher levels of attention and well-being.

(Bento and Dias, 2017, p. 157)

They offer a contrasting view of the indoor environment which they describe as one where young children ‘spend long periods in closed environments, more exposed to disease contamination and saturated air’ (p. 158). This is an interesting point to bear in mind although alarm in the media about high levels of pollution outdoors impacting negatively on young children’s health cannot be ignored. At the same time, writers like Mendes et al. (2014) remind us that there can often be much higher concentrations of bacteria within an Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) setting than outside and of course world events such as the pandemic caused by COVID-19 has led to a renewed interest in using the outdoors as a protective factor against spreading disease. Research offers evidence in several areas that are worth considering if thinking of the benefits for young children to be outdoors in nature. These include evidence about the positive impact of:

  • sleeping outdoors
  • natural light
  • green spaces.