Grahn et al (1997) studied children’s behaviour as a whole (how they play, how often they are outside, their play routines, etc.), development of motor function and powers of concentration during the course of a year.
The study was carried out at two day nurseries, one outdoor “I Ur och Skur” kindergarten, and the other a traditional nursery in new, spacious premises. “When it comes to concentration capacity, the children within I Ur och Skur pre-schools are more than twice as focused as children within a normal pre-school. Their motor skills are better, they are less frustrated, restless and sick.” One key reason for statistically significant differences being observed was attributed to the uneven surfaces and trees children encountered in the outdoor nursery. This study also monitored the role of adults working with the children through the use of diaries. The entries from the traditional nursery staff showed that staff often felt inadequate and the staff had to intervene more to manage conflicts which arose, usually to do with the dominant activity which was cycling.
Fjørtoft and Sageie (2001) built upon the research by Grahn et al. They compared two groups of pre-school children during a nine-month period. All these children attended the same nursery. One group had daily access to natural landscape for at least two hours, the other group only occasional access. Significant differences were found in coordination, balance skills, and agility. The researchers concluded, “Nature affords possibilities and challenges for the children to explore their own abilities. The children feel more comfortable being in the natural environment and their knowledge about nature increases.”
Grahn, P., Martensson, F., Lindblad, B., Nilsson, P., & Ekman, A. (1997) Ute på Dagis Stad and Land 145. Håssleholm, Sweden: Nora Skåne Offset.
Fjørtoft, I. & Sageie, J.(2001) ‘The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children: The Impact of Outdoor Play Activities in Pre-Primary School Children’, Early Childhood Education Journal 29(2): 111-117.