Greenspace promotes early childhood development


You want to make sure your child reaches all of their developmental milestones. UBC research has shown that children who live in areas with high greenspace exposure can be more successful.

Researchers at UBC’s faculty of medicine and faculty of forestry analyzed the developmental scores for 27,372 children who were in kindergarten in Metro Vancouver between 2005 and 2011. They calculated the amount of greenspace surrounding each child’s home from birth through age five. They also evaluated the levels of community noise and traffic-related air pollution.

According to authors, the results emphasize the importance of natural green spaces such as parks, streets, and community gardens.

“Most of the children were doing well in their development, in terms of language skills, cognitive capacity, socialization and other outcomes,” said study author Ingrid Jarvis (she/her), a UBC PhD candidate in forest and conservation sciences. “But what’s interesting is that those children living in a residential location with more vegetation and richer natural environments showed better overall development than their peers with less greenspace.”

Researchers believe that this is due to greenspaces’ ability reduce noise pollution and air pollution–environmental challenges which have been proven to adversely impact children’s development and health through stress, sleep disturbances, and damage to their central nervous systems.

Jarvis adds, “Few studies have investigated this pathway linking greenspace and developmental outcomes among children, and we believe this is the first Canadian study to do so.”

Researchers assessed the early childhood development of each child using the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a questionnaire completed by kindergarten teachers. This tool assesses a child’s ability meet age-appropriate developmental standards.

“More research is needed, but our findings suggest that urban planning efforts to increase greenspace in residential neighborhoods and around schools are beneficial for early childhood development, with potential health benefits throughout life,” said Matilda van den Bosch , senior author of the study and UBC research associate.

While time in nature is good for everyone, children should have access to nature contact if they want to be successful. Greenspace can be accessed from an early age to promote good mental, social and emotional development.

Categories: Health Life