Early YearsHealth & WellbeingInterdisciplinaryResearch



This literature review of global evidence is published by the Scottish Government Early Learning and Childcare Programme Directorate (17 March 2021). This review aimed to understand the extent to which nature-based early learning and childcare (ELC) influences young children’s physical, cognitive, and social and emotional development.

Nature appears to be particularly beneficial for children’s physical activity and mental health outcomes.

The report makes 3 key recommendations for nature in early learning and childcare settings, based on the available evidence. These apply to all setting types: outdoor; indoor/outdoor; and satellite. Children should have regular and frequent access to rich and varied natural environments.  Ideally, this includes a combination of grassed areas, vegetation, natural elements, rocks, hills and/or shaded areas. These natural elements in the environment encourage physical activity, diverse play types and human interactions. Therefore, all types of settings should provide children with access to nature. The recommendations note that it is important to understand how much and how regularly children are exposed to/engage with nature across each setting. We need robust evaluation practices in order to generate stronger evidence on the impact of nature-based ELC in Scotland.

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