Nature as children's space: A systematic review

ABSTRACT

The emerging interest in “spaces of childhood” over the past two decades can be identified across numerous disciplines. A substantial body of research has indicated that children's active engagement within the natural environment is associated with a range of cognitive, physical, affective, and moral developmental benefits. Although research on children's space and place is a burgeoning field, currently only one identified systematic review exists within the literature investigating the benefits of children's engagement in nature. The aim of this article was thus to systematically review and synthesize the findings of children's understandings and engagement with nature as a space. After a systematic search of the literature, 83 articles were included in this review with study samples spanning across children aged 3 to 18 years old. The review underscores four thematic domains derived utilizing thematic analysis. It is ostensible from the results that children's perceptions of and engagement in nature as a space and place are multifarious, benefiting children's well-being in myriad ways. At a foundational level, more research is required to deepen understandings about how children in differing contexts construct nature.

 

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