Nature-Based Early Childhood Education and Children’s Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, Motor Competence, and Other Physical Health Outcomes: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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  • 1 MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • | 2 CIPER, Faculty of Human Kinetics, University of Lisbon, Cruz Quebrada, Portugal
  • | 3 Faculty of Humanities, Sports and Education Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway, Notodden, Norway
  • | 4 School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
  • | 5 Research Unit on Childhood, Department of Sport and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium
  • | 6 Laboratory of Motor Behavior, Faculty of Human Kinetics, University of Lisbon, Cruz-Quebrada, Portugal
  • | 7 School of Psychological Sciences and Health, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom
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Background: The purpose was to synthesize evidence on the association between nature-based Early Childhood Education (ECE) and children’s physical activity (PA) and motor competence (MC). Methods: A literature search of 9 databases was concluded in August 2020. Studies were eligible if (1) children were aged 2–7 years old and attending ECE, (2) ECE settings integrated nature, and (3) assessed physical outcomes. Two reviewers independently screened full-text articles and assessed study quality. Synthesis was conducted using effect direction (quantitative), thematic analysis (qualitative), and combined using a results-based convergent synthesis. Results: 1370 full-text articles were screened and 39 (31 quantitative and 8 qualitative) studies were eligible; 20 quantitative studies assessed PA and 6 assessed MC. Findings indicated inconsistent associations between nature-based ECE and increased moderate to vigorous PA, and improved speed/agility and object control skills. There were positive associations between nature-based ECE and reduced sedentary time and improved balance. From the qualitative analysis, nature-based ECE affords higher intensity PA and risky play, which could improve some MC domains. The quality of 28/31 studies was weak. Conclusions: More controlled experimental designs that describe the dose and quality of nature are needed to better inform the effectiveness of nature-based ECE on PA and MC.

Martin (Anne.Martin@glasgow.ac.uk) is corresponding author.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Material S1 (pdf 370 KB)
    • Supplementary Material S2 (pdf 616 KB)
    • Supplementary Material S3 (pdf 468 KB)
    • Supplementary Material S4 (pdf 371 KB)
    • Supplementary Material S5 (pdf 803 KB)
    • Supplementary Material S6 (pdf 372 KB)
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