Research / Articles

Research shows that unstructured free play in nature benefits our children in many ways. Nature play improves health and wellbeing and enhances intellectual development.

Research / Articles

Research shows that the nature of children’s play has changed dramatically over the last two decades.

Unstructured free play in nature benefits our children in many ways. Nature play improves health and wellbeing and enhances intellectual development.

The research also reveals some alarming statistics about the impacts of our current lifestyle on our children. Decreased physical activity, increased screen time and risk aversion all contribute to the problem.

Read the research but don’t let it make you feel despondent or guilty or that it’s too late. Use it to motivate you to join us in making unstructured, outdoor play in nature an everyday part of our children’s childhood.


2014 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People

Commissioned by the Heart Foundation (5.6MB pdf)

This report shows that the proportion of Australian children meeting the recommended Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines is low and unstructured activity outdoors is declining.


Planting Trees: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Commissioned by Planet Ark (1.74MB pdf)

Despite our prosperity, this research report finds that 25% of Australian children are overweight and 14% have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Childhood contact with nature is shown to provide a range of health and wellbeing benefits.

Positive mental health outcomes include:

  • reduced symptoms and severity of ADHD
  • reduced stress levels
  • reduced depression
  • increased confidence and self esteem

Physical health benefits include:

  • reduced risks of obesity
  • reduced risk of myopia
  • improved recovery from certain medical conditions


Sit Less, Move More: Sitting less for children

Heart Foundation (78kb pdf)

Australian children spend too much time sitting for long periods. Sitting less helps reduce the risk of children developing health problems later in life.


Square Eyes and Couch Potatoes: Children’s participation in physical activity and screen based activities

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Many Australian children spend significantly less time doing informal physical activity (like riding a bike) than they spend on screen-based activities. In 2009, 40% of children spent less than two hours per fortnight doing informal physical activity and over 40% of children aged 5-14 watched an average of 20+ hours of television per fortnight.


No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society

Tim Gill, published by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (2.8MB PDF)

Tim Gill discusses the current culture of risk aversion and concerns about child safety and its impact on restrictions on children’s play and limiting their freedom of movement.


Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences to Adult Environmentalism

Nancy Wells and Kristie Lekies (184kb pdf)

Wells and Lekies examine the connections between childhood involvement with the natural environment and adult environmentalism. Childhood contact with nature is shown to provide enhanced intellectual development including improved creativity, imagination and academic performance.