Contact with nature and children’s restorative experiences: An eye to the future
Recommendations offered for further research on children’s experience of nature-related restoration
This review article presents recommendations for future research on the benefits children obtain through direct and visual exposure to nature. The primary focus is on benefits that are restorative in character – that is, benefits leading to the renewal of adaptive resources that have become depleted in meeting the demands of everyday life. The resources referred to in this context are mainly psychological, such as the ability to inhibit impulses and concentrate on tasks and to regain a positive mood.
The issues and recommendations presented by the authors are based on what is currently known from previous research, including the idea that children benefit from nature exposure as much as adults do. What is not well known, however, is an understanding of what specifically makes the environment restorative for children.
This article includes an overview of research findings as they relate to restoration in typically-developing children and children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also highlighted are five areas for further investigation along with a few methodological suggestions for how such studies might be conducted.
The first recommendation for further research calls for a closer look at child-environment interactions. What circumstances, for example, might constrain or limit restoration in a particular environment? A suggestion related to this concern is for researchers to consider personal and socio-cultural factors possibly influencing restoration benefits. Other issues and recommendations for future research address possible under-stimulation, social context, the relationship between children’s restorative experiences and pro-environmental and pro-social behaviors, and children’s favorite places (which may or may not be a natural place). Authors also recommend a more sophisticated view of what is referred to as nature exposure, including quantity, quality, and length of exposure.
In their final remarks, the authors express an “urgent need for a closer collaboration between researchers, city planners, educators and parents in order to apply insights from children’s restoration research.” The final aim, they note, is the guarding of children’s healthy development.
Collado, S., Staats, H., (2016). Contact with nature and children’s restorative experiences: An eye to the future. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(1885)