Impact of outdoor nurseries for health and wellbeing of children, families and communities

Outdoor nature-based nurseries are Early Learning and Childcare establishments where children spend most of their time in the outdoors (e.g. parks, forests) engaging with nature. Outdoor nurseries present a potentially effective strategy for preventing diseases, fostering connectedness to the natural and social environment and reducing inequalities.

We are involved in several projects intended to systematically generate evidence on the impact of nature-based early learning and childcare in Scotland and internationally to enhance the evidence base and improve policy in this area. With support from partners like Inspiring Scotland – Thrive Outdoors, Glasgow City Council, the Care Inspectorate, the Early Learning and Childcare Directorate of the Scottish Government, and early years educators, we have conducted:

  • A systematic review on nature-based early childhood education for child health, wellbeing and development
  • An Evaluability Assessment of outdoor play and learning across Scotland
  • Systems mapping of the factors influencing outdoor play and learning in Scotland
  • Qualitative research with parents and nurseries to explore the role of outdoor nature-based childcare for children’s wellbeing.

 Ongoing research includes:

  1. The investigation of parental and educator perceptions of risks and benefits of outdoor activities and play with children aged 2-5 years
  2. PhD research on assessing the feasibility of evaluating nature-based play and learning in Glasgow
  3. Exploring differences in microbiome of children exposed to nature-based vs traditional childcare in areas of high and low deprivation.

This work is part funded through core funding but also funding from the MVLS Institutional Strategic Support Fund (Wellcome Trust); Scottish Government; Glasgow Children’s Hospital Research Fund; Economic and Social Research Council and Glasgow City Council.


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