Deakin University

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Green space and early childhood development: A systematic review

journal contribution
posted on 2020-04-23, 00:00 authored by M Z Islam, J Johnston, Peter SlyPeter Sly
AbstractBackgroundThe urban environment presents significant health challenges for children, such as discouraging physical exercise and increasing exposure to air pollution, excessive noise and higher temperatures. Reducing exposures to these negative environmental factors can have great benefits on a child’s well-being and lower their risk of developing chronic diseases later in life. There is increasing evidence that suggests that the presence of urban green space can offer benefits to human health and well-being. While studies have reported the impact green space exposure has on the individual health outcomes of children, few have paid attention to the link between green space and the child’s development. This review aims to synthesise the evidence of the effect green space exposure has on early childhood development.ObjectivesTo explore the relationship between green space and early childhood development.MethodsAn online search was conducted using pre-identified keywords related to green space and early childhood development using search engines such as PubMed, MEDLINE, Web of Science, MeSH and PsycINFO. Peer-reviewed papers published in the past 10 years were included in this review. Papers were selected, extracted, analysed and interpreted based on Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.ResultsFifty-one papers were identified, of which 28 were excluded due to duplications or irrelevance, yielding a total of 23 papers to be reviewed. Articles were categorised based on reported outcomes: perinatal health, physical health, psychological health and respiratory health. An increase in green space during pregnancy was associated with increased birth weight and a decreased risk for low birth weight (LBW). Further, higher greenness exposure during childhood was associated with increased levels of physical activity and a lower risk of obesity and neurodevelopmental issues such as inattentiveness. While green space exposure was negatively associated with wheezing and bronchitis in some cohorts, certain plant species increase asthmatic symptoms during childhood, indicating that plant species type is an important determinant.ConclusionThe extant literature on green space exposure and early childhood development is small. Regardless, the existing research provides promising insights into the benefits of green space exposure on children’s health and well-being in an ever-increasing urban world. Further research is needed on the causal relationships between both quantity and quality of green space to early childhood development.



Reviews on Environmental Health






189 - 200


De Gruyter closed journal articles


Berlin, Germany







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal