Do you want to ensure that your child reaches all of their developmental milestones? According to new UBC research, living in places with a high concentration of greenspace can help prepare children for success.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia’s faculty of forestry and faculty of medicine assessed the developmental scores of 27,372 children who attended kindergarten in Metro Vancouver between 2005 and 2011. They calculated the amount of greenspace surrounding each child’s residence between the ages of birth and five. Additionally, they analyzed traffic-related air pollution and neighborhood noise levels.
The findings emphasize the critical necessity of natural green areas such as street trees, parks, and community gardens, according to the authors.
“The majority of youngsters were developing normally in terms of linguistic abilities, cognitive capacity, socialization, and other outcomes,” says research author Ingrid Jarvis (she/her), a PhD candidate in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia. “However, what’s fascinating is that children who live in residential areas with more vegetation and natural environs demonstrated greater overall development than their classmates who live in areas with less greenspace.”
According to the researchers, this is partly due to greenspaces’ ability to mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution and noise – environmental challenges that have been shown to have a negative impact on children’s health and development via increased stress, sleep disturbances, and central nervous system damage.
“Few research have examined this link between greenspace and infant development outcomes, and we believe this is the first Canadian study to do so,” Jarvis says.
The researchers evaluated early childhood development using the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a questionnaire administered to each child by kindergarten instructors. The instrument assesses a child’s capacity to reach developmental milestones at an acceptable age.
“While additional research is needed, our findings imply that increasing greenspace in residential neighborhoods and surrounding schools helps early childhood development and may have long-term health advantages,” says senior author and UBC research associate Matilda van den Bosch (she/her).
“While time spent in nature benefits everyone, if we want to give our children the best possible start, it is critical to establish an enriched atmosphere through natural interaction. Access to greenspace at an early age can aid in children’s social, emotional, and mental development.”