Benefits of Nature on Children’s Developmental Needs: A Review

Nor Diyana Mustapa, Nor Zarifah Maliki, Aswati Hamzah


The past few decades have shown that the opportunity for children to have a direct connection with nature and outdoor environment declined due to rapid urbanization. Children face various physical and health problems as consequences from this phenomenon. This paper presents a review on benefits of nature on children’s developmental needs. The review also highlights children’s experience in nature and the effect of disconnection from nature. In summary, it is crucial to understand children’s view towards nature and environment in creating spaces that reconnect them with nature. Designing for children today is indeed designing for the future as well.

Keywords: Children, nature, connection, developmental needs

eISSN 2398-4295 © 2018. The Authors. Published for AMER ABRA cE-Bs by e-International Publishing House, Ltd., UK. This is an open-access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license ( Peer–review under responsibility of AMER (Association of Malaysian Environment-Behaviour Researchers), ABRA (Association of Behavioural Researchers on Asians) and cE-Bs (Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies), Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. 


Children, nature, connection, developmental needs

Full Text:



Ã, A. O., & Yilmaz, O. (2008). Assessment of outdoor school environments and physical activity in Ankara ’ s primary schools. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 287–300.

A Simmons, D. (2006). Urban Children’s Preferences for Nature: Lessons for Environmental Education. Children’s Environment, 11(3), 194–203.

Arbogast, K. L., Kane, B. C. P., Kirwan, J. L., & Hertel, B. R. (2009). Vegetation and outdoor recess time at elementary schools: What are the connections? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29(4), 450–456.

Bixler, R. D., Floyd, M. F., & Hammitt, W. E. (2002). Environmental Socialization: Quantitative Tests of the Childhood Play Hypothesis. Environment and Behavior, 34(6), 795–818.

Chawla, L. (2007). Childhood Experiences Associated with Care for the Natural World : A Theoretical Framework for Empirical Results. Children, Youth and Environments, 17(4), 144–170.

Cheng, J. C.-H., & Monroe, M. C. (2010). Connection to Nature: Children’s Affective Attitude Toward Nature. Environment and Behavior, 44(1), 31–49.

Clements, R. (2004). An Investigation of the Status of Outdoor Play. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 5(1), 68–80.

Cohen, S., & Horm-Wingerd, D. (1993). Children and the Environment: Ecological Awareness among Preschool Children. Environment and Behavior, 25(1), 103–120.

Collado, S., & Corraliza, J. A. (2012). Perceived Restoration and Environmental Orientation in a Sample of Spanish Children. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 38(December 2010), 264–274.

Collado, S., Staats, H., & Corraliza, J. A. (2013). Experiencing nature in children’s summer camps: Affective, cognitive and behavioural consequences. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 33, 37–44.

Corraliza, J. A., Collado, S., & Bethelmy, L. (2012). Nature as a Moderator of Stress in Urban Children. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 38(December 2010), 253–263.

Duerden, M. D., & Witt, P. A. (2010). The impact of direct and indirect experiences on the development of environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30(4), 379–392.

Ernst, J. (Athman), & Monroe, M. (2006). The effects of environment based education on students’ critical thinking skills and disposition toward critical thinking. Environmental Education Research, 12(3-4), 429–443.

Fjortoft, I. (2001). The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children : The Impact of Outdoor Play Activities in Pre-Primary School Children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(2).

Fjortoft, I. (2004). Landscape as Playscape : The Effects of Natural Environments on Children ’ s Play and Motor Development. Children, Youth and Environments, 14(2), 21–44.

Fjortoft, I., & Sageie, J. (2000). The natural environment as a playground for children Landscape description and analyses of a natural playscape. Landscape and Urban Planning, 48, 83–97.

Freeman, C., & Tranter, P. (2011). Children & Their Urban Environment. Earthscan.

Gaster, S. (1991). Urban Children’s Access to Neighbourhood: Changes Over Three Generations. Environment and Behavior, 23(1), 70–85.

Gross, H., & Lane, N. (2007). Landscapes of the lifespan: Exploring accounts of own gardens and gardening. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27(3), 225–241.

Hussein, H. (2012). The Influence of Sensory Gardens on the Behaviour of Children with Special Educational Needs. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 38(December 2010), 343–354.

Kahn, P. H., & Kellert, S. R. (2002). Children and nature: Psychological, Sosiocultural, and evolutionary investigations. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Karsten, L. (2005). It all used to be better? Different generations on continuity and change in urban children’s daily use of space. Children’s Geographies, 3(3), 275–290.

Kellert, S. R. (2002). Experiencing nature: Affective, Cognitive and Evaluative Development in Children. In S. R. Kellert & Kahn (Eds.), Children and Nature: Psychological, Sosiocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations. Massachusetts London, England: The MIT Press Cambridge.

Kellert, S. R. (2005). Nature and Childhood Development. In Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection (pp. 63–89). Washington, DC: Island Press.

Kellert, S. R., & Wilson, E. O. (1993). The biophilia hypothesis. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Kuo, F. E., & Taylor, A. F. (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9), 1580–6.

Laaksoharju, T., Rappe, E., & Kaivola, T. (2012). Garden affordances for social learning, play, and for building nature–child relationship. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 11(2), 195–203.

Larson, L. R., Green, G. T., & Castleberry, S. B. (2009). Construction and Validation of an Instrument to Measure Environmental Orientations in a Diverse Group of Children. Environment and Behavior, 43(1), 72–89.

Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books.

Mårtensson, F., Boldemann, C., Söderström, M., Blennow, M., Englund, J.-E., & Grahn, P. (2009). Outdoor environmental assessment of attention promoting settings for preschool children. Health & Place, 15(4), 1149–57.

Matsuoka, R. H. (2010). Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links. Landscape and Urban Planning, 97(4), 273–282.

Mcallister, C., Lewis, J., & Murphy, S. (2012). The green grass grew all around: rethinking urban natural spaces with children in mind. Children Youth and Environments, 22, 164–193.

McCurdy, L. E., Winterbottom, K. E., Mehta, S. S., & Roberts, J. R. (2010). Using nature and outdoor activity to improve children’s health. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 40, 102–117.

Orr, D. W. (1992). Earth in Mind. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Prezza, M., Pilloni, S., Morabito, C., Sersante, C., Alparone, F. R., & Giuliani, M. V. (2001). The Influence of Psychosocial and Environmental Factors on Children ’ s Independent Mobility and Relationship to Peer Frequentation. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 450(September), 435–450.

Roe, J., & Aspinall, P. (2011). The restorative outcomes of forest school and conventional school in young people with good and poor behaviour. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 10(3), 205–212.

Said, I. (2012). Affordances of Nearby Forest and Orchard on Children ’ s Performance s. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 38(December 2010), 195–203.

Stern, M. J., Powell, R. B., & Ardoin, N. M. (2008). What Difference Does It Make? Assessing Outcomes From Participation in a Residential Environmental Education Program. The Journal of Environmental Education, 39(4), 31–43.

Taylor, A. F., & Kuo, F. E. (2009). Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park. Journal of Attention Disorders, 12(5), 402–9.

Taylor, A. F., Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 54–77.

Taylor, A. F., Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2002). Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence From Inner City Children. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22(1-2), 49–63.

Tennessen, C. M., & Cimprich, B. (1995). Views to nature: Effects on attention. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(1), 77–85.

Thompson, C. W., Aspinall, P., & Montarzino, A. (2007). The Childhood Factor: Adult Visits to Green Places and the Significance of Childhood Experience. Environment and Behavior, 40(1), 111–143.

Tunstall, S., Tapsell, S., & House, M. (2004). Children’s perceptions of river landscapes and play: what children's photographs reveal. Landscape Research, 29(2), 181–204.

Veitch, J., Bagley, S., Ball, K., & Salmon, J. (2006). Where do children usually play? A qualitative study of parents’ perceptions of influences on children's active free-play. Health & Place, 12(4), 383–393.

Veselinovska, S. S., Petrovska, S., & Zivanovic, J. (2010). How to help children understand and respect nature? Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 2244–2247.

Wells, N. M. (2000). At Home with Nature Effects of “ Greenness ” on Children ’ s Cognitive. Environment and Behavior, 32(6), 775–795.

Wells, N. M., & Evans, G. W. (2003). Nearby Nature A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children. Environment and Behavior, 35(3), 311–330.

Wells, N. M., & Lekies, K. S. (2006). Nature and the Life Course : Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences. Children Youth and Environments, 16(1), 1–24.

Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Zelezny, L. C. (1999). Educational Interventions That Improve Environmental Behaviors: A Meta-Analysis. The Journal of Environmental Education, 31(1), 5–14.



  • There are currently no refbacks.